Woman Is Shot, Killed at South Africa Mine

JOHANNESBURG—South African platinum producer PLC said on Monday that a female employee was fatally shot near its Marikana mine, the latest in a string of shootings that underscore the fragile labor environment at the site of last year’s violent strike, which left dozens dead.

The employee was shot midmorning while walking in the community next to the mine, a Lonmin spokeswoman said. The National Union of Mineworkers said the woman was one of its leaders at the Marikana mine.

In August 2012, a violent strike at the Marikana mine escalated when police fired into thousands of protesters. The strike then spread to other platinum, gold and iron-ore mines, shutting large swaths of South Africa’s mineral production, costing the country and its mining sector billions of rand in revenue.

South African Police officers stand guard near the body of a South African local union leader who was killed at Lonmin’s Marikana on Aug. 12, 2013, almost a year after officers shot dead 34 strikers on the restive platinum belt.

While last year’s mine strikes have largely subsided, violence continues and sporadic work stoppages still plague the mining community.

Data released this month show how work stoppages and labor tensions, coupled with poor global demand, continue to hinder output. Mine production in June was down 6.2% from a year ago, according to government data, with platinum output down 4.6%. A number of mining companies, including Coal of Africa, have scaled back or closed mines.

The rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers, which is aligned with South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, and relative newcomer the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union has fueled much of the labor unrest. AMCU has usurped NUM’s dominance, attracting new members on the promise of higher wages and better working conditions. At Lonmin, AMCU has 70% of unionized employees, along with a majority at Anglo American Platinum Ltd., AMS.JO -0.15% the world’s largest producer.

Many workers have criticized what they saw as a cozy relationship between NUM leaders and mine management. NUM has denied it is too close to mining executives.

But since AMCU gained majority representation at Marikana, violence has continued. In May, three men were killed over a weekend, two associated with NUM and one a regional leader for AMCU. Since then, there has been a series of other fatal shootings in the Rustenburg area, most recently one at the end of July.

AMCU representatives didn’t respond to requests to comment.

The Lonmin spokeswoman said police are investigating Monday’s shooting, but NUM leaders said they have little confidence the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

“Amid the increasing assassinations in Marikana and the broader Rustenburg area, there has not been any progress with regard to the arrest and prosecutions of the suspects,” NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said.

A police spokesman for the area didn’t respond to calls.

One Lonmin employee said tensions remain high between the two unions and “if people can hear you talking about the situation they can kill you.”

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