Striking S.Africa coal miners injured in clash with police

JOHANNESBURG, March 20 Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:44am EDT

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JOHANNESBURG, March 20 (Reuters) - Seven striking workers at Shanduka Coal's Graspan colliery in South Africa were admitted to hospital and nine were arrested on Tuesday after police fired rubber bullets during clashes with the miners, the company and police said on Wednesday.

Operations at Graspan remain suspended following a wildcat protest by some 250 employees, which started on Tuesday.

"The police dispersed the striking employees, who were on mine premises illegally, had seized mine equipment, and were refusing to leave peacefully," Shanduka Coal, partly owned by global commodity trader Glencore, said in a statement.

"The industrial action was unlawful, unprotected and in breach of the employees' contracts of employment."

Police said workers refused to disperse after handing over a notice to management detailing their demands.

Brigadier Selvy Mohlala, police spokesman for Mpumalanga province, said some of the striking workers charged the police lines with heavy earth-moving equipment.

"That is when the police used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd," he said.

The strike follows illegal walkouts at five collieries owned by diversified mining company Exxaro, which started two weeks ago over bonus payments. (Reporting by Agnieszka Flak and Sherilee Lakmidas; Editing by Ed Stoddard)

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