South African police on Thursday fired at a group of miners, who were on strike, leaving an estimated 18 people dead, according to reports.
Motionless bodies lay on the ground in pools of blood.
Police moved in on striking workers who gathered on a rocky outcropping near the Lonmin PLC mine on Thursday afternoon. On TV footage, a volley of intense gunfire could be heard. Private television broadcasters showed images of still bodies lying in the blood in the dust. Another image showed some miners, their eyes wide, looking in the distance at heavily-armed police officers in riot gear.
Lonmin is the world’s third largest platinum producer.
In a statement earlier Thursday, Lonmin had said striking workers would be fired if they did not appear at their shifts on Friday.
“The striking (workers) remain armed and away from work,” the statement read. “This is illegal.”
The unrest at the Lonmin mine began on August 10, as some 3,000 workers walked off the job over a wage dispute in what management described as an illegal strike.
Those who tried to go to work on Saturday were blocked, management and the National Union of Mineworkers said.
On Sunday, the rage became deadly as a crowd killed two security guards by setting their car ablaze, authorities said. By Monday, angry mobs killed two other workers and overpowered police, killing two officers, officials said.
Officers opened fire that day, killing three miners, police said.
Operations appeared to come to a standstill on Tuesday as workers stayed away from the mines, where 96 percent of all Lonmin’s platinum production comes from.
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