File picture.

Johannesburg - Around 12,000 workers at a South African gold mine downed tools in a wildcat strike, their employer Gold Fields said on Friday.

“Employees of the East Section of the KDC Gold Mine on the West Rand (Johannesburg) in South Africa have been engaging in an unlawful and unprotected strike since the start of the night shift on Wednesday,” the company said in a statement on its website.

“Based on informal feedback from employees, the strike appears to be related mainly to disagreements within organised labour and related structures on the mine, although we cannot confirm this,” said the company's South head Peter Turner.

Two night and day shifts have been lost and the company had gone to court to get the action declared illegal, it said.

The Goldfield strike follows a deadly wildcat strike at the Lonmin platinum mine in Marikana two weeks ago, which left 44 dead, of which 34 shot by police. The violence has been blamed in part on union rivalry.

Gold Fields, which is listed on the Johannesburg and New York Stock Exchanges, produces 3.5 million gold equivalent ounces a year, according to its website.

The company operates eight mines in Australia, Ghana, Peru and South Africa. - Sapa-AFP