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Timeline of unrest in South Africa’s mines

Published on 04/09/2012

Key events this year in South Africa's mining industry:

– January 20: Miners at the Rustenburg platinum mine northwest of the capital Pretoria go on strike over pay and conditions. A court rules the action to be illegal and the mine’s owner, Impala Platinum, fires over 17,000 workers at the facility.

– February 10: South African President Jacob Zuma rejects a demand from Julius Malema, a radical leader of the African National Congress’s youth wing, for the nationalisation of the country’s mining industry.

– March 5: Work resumes at the Rustenburg mine after a six-week strike marked by violence between strikers and non-strikers leading to the deaths of three workers in February. The company re-hires most of the workers laid off, but the National Union of Mineworkers says key issues have still not been resolved.

– May 22: In one of several such incidents, a collapse at an illegally operated diamond mine in the Northern Cape Province kills at least 16 workers.

– July 1: An underground fire in a gold mine west of Johannesburg kills five workers.

– August 14: Security forces are sent in to the Marikana platinum mine northwest of Johannesburg after clashes between workers over a strike action leave nine people dead, two of them police officers. Work stops at the mine, where the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union is demanding major pay increases, a move opposed by the larger National Union of Mineworkers.

– August 16: Police at the Marikana mine open fire on striking workers, some of whom are armed, killing 34 and injuring 78. The shootings evoke memories of the apartheid era, which ended in 1994 with the election of a multi-racial government.

– August 23: The country holds a mourning ceremony to mark the deaths of the Lonmin miners. Malema, expelled from the ruling ANC, calls for a “mining revolution” in South Africa.

– August 30: Prosecutors say they intend to charge the 270 Marikana miners arrested after the police shootings with murdering their own colleagues. The decision causes outrage.

– August 31: A new strike breaks out at the West Rand goldmine near Johannesburg, where 12,000 workers down tools.

– September 2: Prosecutors agree to drop murder charges against the 270 miners arrested at the Marikana mine, where strike action continues.

– September 3: The Lonmin company says that the continuing strike at its Marikana platinum mine is putting at risk 40,000 jobs. Meanwhile a first group of the miners arrested after the August 16 police shootings are released.

Four workers are injured in violence related to another strike, at the Modder goldmine east of Johannesburg.