Two killed in clash at Harmony Gold South Africa mine

JOHANNESBURG Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:18pm EST

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Two miners were killed in clashes between rival unions in South Africa on Thursday at a mine run by Harmony Gold, in a fresh flare-up of labor violence in Africa's largest economy days after a wave of wildcat strikes ended, police said.

A third miner was in hospital after being shot in the leg during the confrontation at Kusasalethu mine, 65 km (40 miles) west of Johannesburg, police spokeswoman Katlego Mogale said.

"Now its quiet. Police are here to monitor the situation,' she told Reuters, adding that between 500 and 1,000 miners were gathered at the mine operated by South Africa's third largest bullion producer.

The clashes at the site resulted from a dispute between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the smaller Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), whose membership turf war has been at the root of much of the recent violence in the South African mining sector.

The last of a wave of illegal strikes that have swept South Africa's gold and platinum mines this year ended a week ago after workers accepted an offer from Anglo American Platinum Ltd, the world's top producer of the precious metal.

But tensions remain between AMCU and the NUM, which has seen its once unrivalled position challenged by the smaller union amid rank and file perceptions that it has grown out of touch with worker needs.

"Our offices at the Harmony mine were attacked after organisers from another union showed up there demanding a meeting and were refused," NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka told Reuters.

The strikes over the last few months have cost companies and the economy billions of dollars in lost output and 50 people were killed in the unrest.

The labor strife prompted Moody's and Standard and Poor's to downgrade their credit ratings for South Africa.

South African Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus said on Thursday the labor troubles were undermining the economy's ability to create jobs.

"In the context of a very weak global economy ... the ability to attract investment and improve the country's ratings must be a clear objective," Marcus said, warning that the strikes would lead to job losses in a country grappling with unemployment of over 25 percent.

(Reporting by Sherilee Lakmidas, Ed Stoddard and Xola Potelwa; Editing by Pascal Fletcher)

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