Striking miners sing, chant, march and dance with weapons at the Lonmin mine near Rustenburg. Photo: AP

North West - Residents of an informal settlement near Lonmin's Marikana mine appeared stunned on Friday morning after a shootout between police and striking workers claimed more than 30 lives.

Locals stood about 800m from the scene of the massacre, and watched police crime scene experts at work.

The area, which was still littered with the blankets the protesters were wearing at the time of the battle, was cordoned off.

“I cannot believe that this happened just on our doorstep,” said community member Angy Peters.

“We did not expect the strike would end like this,” she said.

Another resident, Maria Padro, looked with disbelief at a the front page of a newspaper.

“Look at pictures, people are lying dead,” she said. “Many people have been killed, it is said.”

Construction worker Jan Leba said the striking workers were retreating to Rustenburg until the situation was “totally calm”.

“We are going back. We have stopped because the situation is not safe,” he said.

Thursday's shooting followed the deaths of 10 people, among them police and security guards, since protests at the mine began a week ago.

The protests are believed to be linked to rivalry between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union about recognition agreements at the mine.

Workers also wanted higher wages. They claimed to be earning R4 000 a month, with those living outside the hostel earning an extra R1 000. Reported demands have included pay of R12 500 a month.

The area around Lonmin's Marikana mine seemed quiet on Friday, except for police clustered at the bottom of the hill where striking miners had established their base prior to the massacre.

A newly-erected razor wire fence divided the hill from the nearby informal settlement.

By 7am, two lone residents had emerged from their dwellings and, glancing at the police nyalas outside, they made their way to the road to catch a taxi.

On Friday morning, movement on the road to the area was unrestricted, in contrast to the previous day, when mine security guards manned two checkpoints and questioned journalists.

NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said on Friday that 36 people had been shot dead.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa told Talk Radio 702 on Friday that more than 30 people were killed and that “many” more were injured.

“Police did everything they could… but people (miners) said they were not leaving and are prepared to fight,” he said.

North West health department spokesman Tebogo Lekgethwane said 25 bodies had been removed from the scene and taken to the Phokeng Forensic Mortuary.

On Thursday, Captain Dennis Adriao said police had to use force to protect themselves.

“The SA Police Service was viciously attacked by the group, using a variety of weapons, including firearms,” he said.

“The police, in order to protect their own lives and in self-defence, were forced to engage the group with force.” - Sapa