UPDATE 1-Implats contract worker beaten to death-police

Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:57am EST

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By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG Feb 24 (Reuters) - A contract worker at Impala Platinum's troubled Rustenburg operation in South Africa was beaten to death during an assault on Friday when he tried to go to work, police said.

The assault, which left two other workers injured, underscores how far the company is from resolving a violent and illegal labour dispute that has already seen at least two other people killed and cost the world's second largest platinum producer 80,000 ounces and counting in lost output.

"Another life has been lost when a mine contract worker was attacked this morning, he was a Zimbabwean national," said police spokesman Thulani Ngubane.

Ngubane said two other workers were also injured in the same attack in the early hours of the morning. Implats said at least six workers had been assaulted overnight during attacks directed at those wanting to work.

The disruptions at Implats' Rustenburg operations, the world's single largest platinum mine which accounts for 15 percent of global output when all systems are operational, is a key reason behind a 23 percent spike in the spot price of the white metal in the year to date.

The mine accounts for about 60 percent of Implats' output.

The violence has pitted rival labour unions against each other and at times has triggered disorder in the impoverished shanty-towns that ring the mine.

Implats said on Friday that to date, 59 people had been treated in hospitals for injuries sustained in the violence and 24 remain hospitalised.

(Additional reporting by Sherilee Lakmidas; editing by Keiron Henderson)

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