The judicial inquiry into the shooting at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana got underway in the Rustenburg Civic Centre on Monday.
Retired judge Ian Farlam opened proceedings by addressing the families of those killed on August 16.
"We want to acknowledge and thank you for making time [for the inquiry]," Farlam said.
"We cannot measure your grief and loss."
He said the commission would make sure it got to the truth about how and why the shooting happened.
"[However] we will do everything to make sure the commission will not add to your grief."
The names of those killed were read out. Their relatives were asked to stand when the names were read out.
Everyone attending the inquiry was asked to stand for a minute of silence.
After the opening of the inquiry all parties involved will go to the area where 34 striking workers were shot dead by police on August 16.
People would be allowed to point out places which they considered relevant to the inquiry. The descriptions of what happened at the site would be recorded.
Following the in loco inspection, formal sittings of the commission were expected to start at the civic centre on Wednesday.
In August, President Jacob Zuma announced the three-member judicial commission of inquiry to probe the violence.