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South African Miners' Deadline Extended

(c) Sky News 2012

Around three-quarters of striking workers at the Marikana mine in South Africa – where police killed 34 protesters last Thursday - have been given until Tuesday to return to work.

The company initially ordered employees to return to work on Monday or face the sack, but mine owner Lonmin (Berlin: LRH.BE - news) told Sky News that just 27% of its shift workers had showed up.

Around 3,000 rock-drill operators went on strike after 34 people were shot dead by police in one of the worst displays of violence in South Africa since apartheid ended in 1994.

Ten others died and dozens were wounded during outbreaks of violence sparked by a pay dispute.

Operations have now resumed at the platinum mine, but Lonmin said it did not yet have enough workers at their posts to produce ore.

Shares in the company - which fell 15% last week after news of the event broke - continued to fall on Monday amid reports that the company is considering a billion dollar (£640m) emergency fundraising move.

The price of the metal has also been affected. Since Wednesday last week, the cost of platinum has risen by around 5%.

President Jacob Zuma declared a week of national mourning starting on Monday to commemorate the lives of all South Africans who have died violently, especially those at Marikana mine.

Locals also staged demonstrations at the scene on Sunday, singing hymns and offering prayers for peace.

A Lonmin spokesman said the safety and security of its employees is paramount and nobody will be asked to report for duty if the police consider there to be danger of reprisals.

Lonmin chief financial officer Simon Scott said: "As the government has made clear, it is in the interests of our workers and the country, as well as the company, that the mines are operational.

"We all have a long way to go to rebuild trust and try to come to terms with what has happened, but those who rely on us and want to work deserve the chance to do so."

The rock-drill operators have been leading the illegal strike among the mine's 25,000-strong labour force. Threats of violence kept many others away and prevented 10,000 contractors from working.

Last year, after a similar dispute over labour representation stopped work at its nearby Karee mine, the company fired all 9,000 workers then it asked them to reapply for their jobs.

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