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Strikers on march at S.Africa platinum mine

Hundreds of striking miners marched at a Lonmin platinum mine in South Africa Wednesday, where bosses have been trying to break deadly stoppages that have severely curbed production.

Marchers wielding clubs and pipes chanted as they moved in coordinated groups to a stadium near the Lonmin operations in Marikana northwest of Johannesburg.

Buses loaded with more strikers continued to arrive, while armoured police vehicles patrolled the streets around the mine and a police helicopter circled overhead.

Lonmin set Wednesday as the deadline to return to work after it bypassed AMCU union bosses to persuade workers to return underground after nearly four months of strikes.

More than 80,000 members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union downed tools on January 23 demanding that their basic salary be more than doubled.

Police were deployed at Lonmin after at least three miners were killed since the weekend, some reportedly workers who defied the strike and wanted to report for duty.

Mine bosses and AMCU rival the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) say workers are intimidated into following the strike, and that many want to return underground.

At one point strikers stopped a man who was not marching, demanding to see his papers.

Some marched from an informal settlement next to the hill where police shot dead 34 strikers in one day in 2012, after a week of deadly standoffs between rival unions.

Reticent to talk, workers said Wednesday the union’s leaders would address them at the stadium later in the day.

AMCU muscled its way into the platinum belt two years ago with the rallying cry of 12,500 rand ($1,200, 885 euros) in basic salary.

The world’s top three producers Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin have offered to up the wage package to that figure by 2017, saying they cannot afford more.

But AMCU has rejected the offer and talks have collapsed.