Johannesburg - Anglo American Platinum, the biggest producer of the metal, said one person died after a “disruptive protest” by striking workers in South Africa.

Strikers clashed with security guards and police between a worker settlement and a mine shaft, according to Franz Stehring, an organiser for the UASA union, which didn’t join the walkout.

Employees had been sent home after protests by members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, he said.

“Our medical teams are on the scene to attend to any injuries that may have occurred during the incident,” Anglo American Platinum said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The violence was at the Union mine, near the town of Northam in the country’s northwest, the company said.

A stoppage by more than 70,000 members of the Amcu, the dominant labor group at the world’s three biggest platinum producers, has disrupted operations since January 23.

South Africa accounts for about 70 percent of global output of the metal, used in jewellry and catalytic converters for vehicles.

Talks between companies and the Amcu to end the strike were suspended February 5 without a settlement.

Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin have lost $180 million (R2 billion) in sales since the strike started, they said this week.

The reported fatality is the first associated with the labor action after earlier violent outbreaks in the week.

South African police fired rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse a crowd of 3,000 at Amplats’ Khuseleka mine on February 4.

The group had “the intention of not letting any mineworker go to work,” said Thulani Ngubane, a spokesman for the South African Police Service in the North West province.

He didn’t return calls seeking comment about today’s incident.

Impala has sent workers who have been reporting for their shifts on paid leave in response to the strike, Johan Theron, a spokesman, said February 3.

Employees attempting to report for duty have been blocked, prompting police intervention, he said. - Bloomberg News