Lonmin: Strikes turn violent, 44 miners shot, police forces heavily accused

Xstrata has held a 24.9% stake in the controversial British mining company, Lonmin, since 2008. In a decisive step towards consolidating power over Lonmin´s operations, Glencore Xstrata appointed Gary Nagle, (Glencore head of alloys division), and Paul Smith, (Glencore head of strategy and communications), to Lonmin´s board of directors in September 2013.

In August 2012, Lonmin was involved in one of the most deadly police clashes since the end of apartheid. Three thousand Lonmin platinum miners demonstrated in Marikana, a town close to Johannesburg. Employees gathered to demand better pay. The strike got out of control. The police shot and killed thirty-four miners. Many others were injured or arrested. Worker earnings at the Marikana mine barely cover living expenses. Working conditions are appalling. Many workers sustain on the job injuries because Lonmin does not invest enough in securing workplace safety. Within the town of Marikana, where the workers live with their families, the situation isn’t any better. Lonmin built the neighborhoods for the employees to reside in but hasn’t taken any steps to maintain them since. Broken pipes leak raw sewage directly into a neighboring river. As a result, many Marikana children have fallen ill. There is a clear connection between these illnesses and the polluted water. Power outages can last for weeks on end. The number of people reduced to living in shacks instead of houses is also on the rise.

In September 2013, South Africa´s Marikana Commission of Inquiry discovered inconsistencies and falsehoods in police accounts of the incident that suggested doctoring. In December 2013, the Commission was still performing its investigation, however, it has advised the South African Police Services to consult with their legal advisors. Thus far, no arrests have been made.

At the Marikana´s Commission of Inquiry, experts criticized police forces for the use of R5 rifles with which striking workers were shot in their head and upper-back. Thousands of employees were again on strike from January to June 2014 demanding a higher salary. Without urgency, Glencore seeks to sell its Lonmin stake.

RepRisk has named Lonmin’s Marikana Platinum mine the most controversial mining project between 2012 and 2014.