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South Africa wage protest spreads to Bafokeng platinum mine

Striking miners gather as they listen to the ministerial task team (not pictured) outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg Aug. 21, 2012.

SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS

About 600 workers downed tools Wednesday to demand higher wages at the Royal Bafokeng Platinum Mine, near the Lonmin mine where 44 people have died in a wildcat strike over similar demands.

Rock drill operators, the same workers who led the Lonmin strike, gathered peacefully at the mine to demand a wage increase as a handful of police stood by, an AFP photographer said.

Royal Bafokeng spokeswoman Kea Kalebe said the protest was confined to one shaft, and that the company was still ascertaining the miners' demands.

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"We are still trying to establish the facts, the situation is calm, they were singing and we are obviously monitoring the situation," she said.

Johannesburg-listed Royal Bafokeng Platinum is controlled by the Bafokeng tribe's investment company.

South African newspaper Business Day reported that workers at AngloAmerican Platinum's Thembelani mine, located in the same region, have also demanded a salary hike.

The demands at both mines appear to be led by rock drill operators calling for a monthly wage of 12,500 rand ($1,500 U.S.) a month.

The rock drillers tell reporters they earn about 4,000 rand a month, but the industry and the main National Union of Mineworkers say their total compensation is about 11,000 rand.

Similar wage demands were at the root of the illegal strike at Lonmin that began on Aug. 10. Clashes between the protesters and non-strikers left 10 dead before police were called in, resulting in last Thursday's crackdown when police gunned down 34 people.

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