Tear gas used to disperse miners

2012-11-01 14:37

KwaZulu-Natal police used tear gas to disperse striking miners from the Forbes & Manhattan Coal processing plant in Dundee.

According to miners and police officers on the scene today, workers were protesting outside the processing plant of the Canadian mining company.

The protesting workers had attempted to prevent security guards from Mbube Security arriving at the plant on the outskirts of Dundee.

Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said police had to act as the protest was blocking the road.

On Wednesday, police said two striking miners were shot after security guards had chased them from the company’s Magdalena mine near Dannhauser, 25km away, into a nearby informal settlement.

Mbube Security managing director Stuart Cumming denied that guards had chased the miners.

He said the group of strikers earlier attempted to storm the magazine where mine explosives are stored.

“The first attack was warded off without any violence after police had used loud-hailers, asking them to leave the area near the magazine that was outside of the picketing line,” he said.

“Several more attacks were made on the magazine with the last one a decoy that saw the group split up.”

Cumming claimed police on the scene made no attempt to break up the group, and at least four strikers were seen carrying firearms.

“There was an exchange of gunfire during which two strikers were shot and wounded. They were taken to a clinic for treatment and later died,” he said.

“My guards never chased the strikers. Any loss of life is regrettable.” The unions and the strikers should take responsibility for this loss of life, he said.

Mining operations at the Magdalena mine were suspended according to a statement released late Wednesday.

Forbes & Manhattan Coal chief executive Stephan Theron said: “In order to ensure the safety of all employees and to safeguard our assets, we have taken a decision to suspend all operations until such time as they are deemed safe and appropriate.”

Theron conveyed the company’s condolences to the families of the deceased men.

Two counts of murder were being investigated. Police seized firearms from the security personnel to determine who had fired the fatal shots.

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Bongani Manyoni earlier expressed shock at the deaths.

He said he could confirm that one of the men was a NUM member and identified him as Sanele Mthethwa.

The Witness newspaper reported that the second man killed was Alfred Mdiyako.

The miners have been on strike at the mine since October 17.

Manyoni said the miners had initially been demanding a minimum R3 000 increase for the lowest-paid workers, but had through negotiations modified their demands to an increase of between R1 500 and R2 000 a month.

He said the owners of the mine, Forbes Coal, had been offering an 8.5% increase.

The lowest paid of the miners according to Manyoni were earning in the region of R3 800 a month, which meant the Forbes offer amounted to an increase of less than R400 a month.

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