Striking workers are shown standing idle outside an Anglo American mine in Rustenburg last month.  Picture: SOWETAN
Striking workers are shown standing idle outside an Anglo American Platinum mine in Rustenburg in February. Picture: SOWETAN

WORKERS at Anglo American Platinum’s mines around Rustenburg and north of the Pilanesberg did not go to work on Tuesday after 13 people were hurt in conflict between unions on Monday.

"All of our Rustenburg operations as well as some of those north of Pilanesberg have stopped work," Amplats spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said.

"The workers have said they are expressing sympathy with their colleagues who were injured yesterday (Monday)," she said.

The Rustenburg mines are the main source of platinum for the world’s largest producer of the metal.

The mines affected this week were those that experienced a six-week unprotected strike in October last year that cost Amplats 306,000oz of lost production.

On Monday, about 1,000 people gathered around the recently reopened offices of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) at the Siphumelele mine near Rustenburg, demanding they be closed again.

Mine security was called in and rubber bullets were fired. Police also said some people were hacked with pangas.

The injured were taken to hospital and Ms Sithole said more than half had been released by Tuesday morning.

The news knocked 5% off Amplats’s shares on Monday, and the shares were almost 2% lower in late morning trade on Tuesday, after opening higher.

On Tuesday, workers gathered at the Bleskop Stadium in Rustenburg, Ms Sithole said, adding that Amplats was closely monitoring the situation to prevent another flare-up of violence.

The NUM has lost thousands of members to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Amcu claims to represent 26,000 out of the 60,000 people employed at Amplats, dislodging the NUM as the dominant union.

Impala Platinum, which neighbours the Amplats mines near Rustenburg, has cancelled its recognition agreement with the NUM after it fell below 50% of worker representation. The miner is working out a new labour recognition structure.

The NUM’s membership at Implats has fallen to about 10%, from 70% earlier.

Mining sources point to the tension between the two unions as the source of the violence on the mines, which peaked in August last year when police shot dead 34 protesters at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine.

Amplats is talking to the government and labour about its plans to mothball four shafts, a number of plants and sell its Union mine north of the Pilanesberg in a restructuring exercise that could shed 14,000 jobs.

The plan provoked a furious backlash in January from unions, the African National Congress and Susan Shabangu, the mineral resources minister.

Amplats expected their employees to return to work on Wednesday.