Lonmin says sacking striking miners could lead to more violence

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 21, 2012 2:33 AM
Lonmin says sacking striking miners could lead to more violence

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Lonmin, the world's third-largest platinum producer, on Tuesday conceded that sacking 3,000 striking workers at its Marikana mine near Johannesburg, South Africa, could lead to more violence.

Police last week opened fire on strikers armed with machetes and sticks, killing 34 and raising the death toll from the week-long dispute to 44.

"It won't help anyone if Lonmin goes out and dismisses a whole lot of people for not coming to work today. It will set us back significantly in terms of violence, in terms of building trust," Mark Munroe, Lonmin executive vice-president for mining, told a local radio station on Tuesday morning.

London-based Lonmin on Monday extended its ultimatum for striking workers to return to duty to Tuesday morning, but workers continued to trickle in as the deadline expired.

The company said that 30 percent of the 28,000-strong workforce reported for work on Monday, with some shafts reporting a 60 percent attendance.

"We are not going to go out to actively try to fire anyone, but also there are consequences for someone who is not coming to work," Munroe added.

Lonmin, which accounts for 12 percent of global platinum output, was forced last week to freeze mining as a result of the violence, but essential services such as ventilation were maintained so the mines could quickly restart production.

The platinum producer's shares have tumbled almost 13 percent in Johannesburg in the past five days, with the price of platinum climbing to a two-month high of $1,492.99 an ounce on Monday.

(Reporting by Sherilee Lakmidas; Editing by David Goodman)