The police surround the bodies of miners after opening fire on a crowd at Lonmin Platinum Mine near Rustenburg in South Africa on Thursday, August 16, 2012.
At least 18 South African miners are feared dead after the police opened fire on a crowd of striking workers at a platinum mine.
The shooting took place on Thursday as the police attempted to disperse armed striking miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine in the northern province of North West, the South African Press Association (SAPA) quoted the police as saying.
Hundreds of miners, mostly armed with machetes, had camped for two days on a hillside near the mine outside the northwestern town of Rustenburg, demanding that their monthly salary be raised.
Lonmin, whose operational headquarters is located in Johannesburg, is reportedly the world's third-largest platinum producer with approximately 28,000 employees.
South Africa is home to nearly 80 percent of the world’s platinum reserves.
Police Ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi said investigations were underway on the losses of life. “What happened today at Lonmin is something that was unfortunate and should not have happened in post-democracy because to protest is a legal and constitutional right of any citizen,” he said.
“However, these rights do not imply that people should be barbaric, intimidating, and hold illegal gatherings,” he said. “We had a situation where people who were armed to the teeth attacked and killed other.”
The tension reportedly stems, for the most part, from failed talks between leaders of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
As a result of the strike, the mine has halted its production.
At least 10 people, including two police officers, have been killed since the violence erupted last week.
In January, at least three people were killed in a similar outbreak of violence, leading to a six-week-long closure of the mine.