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Another death in labour unrest at S.Africa’s Impala Platinum

South African police have found a badly beaten corpse near the strike-hit Impala Rustenburg platinum mine, parent company Implats said Friday, the third death since violence broke out there last week.

Six employees were also “brutally assaulted” and are being treated in the mine hospital, Implats said, as the labour dispute extended a shutdown the company says is costing it $1.7 million (1.3 million euros) a day.

Implats spokesman Johan Theron said the company believes the dispute is being caused by rival unions fighting for supremacy.

“We’re convinced that what we’re seeing here is rival groups fighting for control of the Impala work force,” he told AFP.

“Every time we seem to take a step forward there’s more violence and intimidation.”

Theron said a new union, the Association of Mining and Construction Union, was trying to strip members away from the National Union of Mineworkers, which represents about 70 percent of the mine’s employees.

Production at the mine has been hobbled since January 20, when a group of workers began a strike that was declared illegal by a court.

That allowed the company to fire more than 17,000 strikers.

Implats, the world’s number two platinum producer, agreed to rehire the workers, but employees have been divided on whether to go back.

Theron said about 8,500 have been rehired.

But mining has not resumed because the company is still carrying out safety protocols to reopen the mine, and because many of those refusing to return to work are rock drill operators crucial to operations, he said.

The dispute was sparked by an 18-percent salary increase that excluded some 5,000 rock drillers.

Impala Rustenburg, Implats’ biggest platinum operation, produced 941,200 ounces of platinum in the financial year ended June 2011.