MARIKANA, South Africa — Workers at a Lonmin platinum mine vowed Wednesday to keep up their illegal strike, despite clashes between rival South African unions that left 10 people dead and shut down operations.
Police and mine officials had spoken for seven hours with some 3,000 miners gathered on a hill near the site run by the London-listed firm, many of them carrying sticks, machetes and metal bars.
"Let us listen to each other. We are here to talk," one official said in Fanagalo, a unique language spoken in mines which is a mix of English and various African tongues.
Two helicopters hovered overhead during the meeting meant to prevent more violence, with journalists kept about 200 metres (yards) away.
One of the workers' leaders, Alfred Makhaya, described the talks as fruitless and biased, because the officials who were speaking from a police vehicle did not reveal themselves to the crowd.
"We are not going anywhere, no one is going back underground until our wage demands are met. We want money," he said.
"These people are faceless. We can't talk with faceless people."
Troubles at the mine, near the North West province town of Rustenburg about 100 kilometres (65 miles) from Johannesburg, erupted on Friday when hundreds of rock drill operators launched a wildcat strike.
Some are demanding that their wages are more than tripled, from 4,000 rand ($488, 397 euros) to 12,500 rand a month.
Clashes broke out during the weekend between members of the upstart Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
The NUM is one of the most influential pillars of the Cosatu labour federation, which is part of South Africa's governing alliance led by the ruling African National Congress.
The majority of the striking mineworkers reside in a squalid settlement adjacent to the mine, with no running water.
"We can't afford a decent life. We live like animals because of poor salaries we are getting from there," said Thuso Masakeng, pointing at the gigantic site with towers belching smoke.
"We are being exploited, both the government and the unions have failed to come to our rescue. Companies make a lot of money at our expense and we get paid almost nothing," he said as he walked away from the hill top.
The migrant from the northern Limpopo province, who said he has worked for Lonmin for 11 years, said more violence could come if the firm refused to engage with them.
Cosatu has denounced the violence, and both unions claim to be victims of the attacks which have left 10 people dead, including two police.
Work has been halted at the mine, dealing another blow to an already struggling industry which saw several platinum mines shut down since June.
South Africa has around 87 percent of the world's platinum resources and is the largest producer of the metal, used in vehicle catalytic converters to cut pollution.
In February, two workers were killed at a mine owned by Impala Platinum during clashes between the rival unions, but the Lonmin violence is the deadliest yet.
The mining sector is the biggest private employer in South Africa, whose workforce is among the most unionised in the world.
The 10th victim was found Tuesday, about 100 metres from the hilltop where workers were gathered. The man was wearing khaki clothes, the body lying face up with the skull of an animal placed on his chest, according to the South African Press Association.
No arrests have been made in connection with the killing.
Most of the workers came down from the hilltop at sunset, but some remained, chanting slogans and ignoring police orders to disperse.
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