Hundreds held underground in South Africa gold mine protest

Rustenburg, South Africa - Rebel miners blockaded more than 400 workers underground in a South African gold mine Friday while 250 staged their own protest in a platinum mine, company and union representatives said. Some 447 gold miners were originally being held below ground east of Johannesburg in a near repeat of a three-day protest in October, the operator said. The latest incident follows the murder this week of a company investigator who had looked into the earlier events, said Ziyaad Hassam, head of legal at the Gold One mine in Springs. A small group of balaclava-wearing employees was behind the “hostage situation” that began at the start of Thursday’s night shift, he said. The rebels had taken control of the miners’ security access cards “so they are not able to get out from underground,” Hassam told AFP. Two miners who managed to escape early Friday confirmed the events to the management. More than 500 miners were trapped underground for almost three days at the same mine in October during a standoff between rival labour unions. Hassam said the reasons for the new incident were not immediately clear but the company suspected a link to disciplinary hearings over the previous incident. Fifty workers were dismissed after the hearings ended on Thursday, he said. A company investigator involved in the disciplinary process was murdered this week, Hassam added, without giving details. Police were at the scene to monitor the situation, police spokeswoman Dimakatso Nevhuhulwi said.

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