Explosion hits during mine sit-in

Time of article published Nov 21, 2009

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Police arrested 32 mine employees at a Rustenburg mine after an explosion during a sit-in which injured three police officers, a spokesperson said on Saturday.

On Thursday evening, three former employees of mining contractor Murray and Roberts staged a sit-in at the central shaft of the Aquarius Platinum Mine in Kroondal outside Rustenburg, police national spokesperson Senior Superintendent Musa Zondi said.

The miners were protesting their dismissal from the company after an illegal strike a few weeks ago.

"Following the arrest of the three, 32 former employees of MRC forced their way down the mine, assaulting current employees who numbered at least twenty five," Zondi said.

Police are still investigating how and when the miners gained access to the shaft. They demanded the immediate issuance of their Unemployment Insurance Fund certificates.

Mine management withdrew employees who were underground. These miners were assaulted on their way to the surface.

Police forces, including task force members, explosives experts and negotiators, were deployed on Friday to stabilise the situation.

"While forcing their way down the mine, the disgruntled former employees illegally gained access to explosives and set up "booby traps" to prevent special forces from reaching them," Zondi said.

"Two Task Force as well as a member from the Provincial Explosives Unit in the North West were injured by the shrapnel when the booby traps went off," he said.

Police arrested the 32 on charges ranging from attempted murder, illegal possession of explosives, malicious damage to property, trespassing and assault. They will appear in the Rustenburg Magistrates Court on Monday.

"SAPS also managed to confiscate a number of explosives, including shock tubes and blasting cartridges," Zondi said.

The injured officers were taken to the George Shimakane Hospital. - Sapa

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