UPDATE 1-Fearful workers stay clear of S.Africa's platinum mines

Thu May 15, 2014 2:15am EDT

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(Adds details, police comment)

MARIKANA, South Africa May 15 (Reuters) - South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Thursday it had told its members to stay clear of strike-hit platinum mines because of intimidation by the rival AMCU union, which is leading a 16-week stoppage over pay.

"We have said they must stay away until conditions are safe and the intimidation stops. We are expecting very few guys to go to work today," Sydwell Dokolwana, NUM's regional secretary on the platinum belt, told Reuters.

Reuters reporters outside platinum producer Lonmin's Marikana mine, 120 km (70 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, said there was little activity with virtually no one showing up to work.

Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum have also been affected by the strike, the longest and costliest ever to hit the sector. The industrial action has halted 40 percent of normal global production of the precious metal.

On Wednesday, strikers from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) prevented others from returning to Lonmin's shafts, thwarting the company's efforts to end the strike.

Lonmin had been aiming for a "mass return" of workers but a spokesman said "a very low number" had showed up. The producers have said many of the strikers had indicated a willingness to accept the latest pay offer through SMS polls.

There were no reports of overnight violence, but four miners were killed at the weekend as some employees prepared to go back to work at Amplats and Lonmin. Implats' main operations around the platinum belt town of Rustenburg remain completely shut.

South Africa's police minister vowed on Wednesday to crack down on violence against those who wanted to return to work and arrest "within hours" strikers he said were behind a campaign of intimidation.

Regional police spokesman Thulani Ngubane said on Thursday no arrests had been made yet. "The perpetrators are known and it is only a matter of time," he said. (Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Additional reporting and writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Ed Cropley)

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