* Police fire tear gas, rubber bullets at rioting miners
* One miner dead, eight arrested
* Strike costing company $155 million in lost output so far
* Implats shares drop 3.1 percent
By Ed Stoddard
RUSTENBURG, South Africa, Feb 16 South
African riot police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water
cannon on Thursday at hundreds of striking miners who went on
the rampage at Impala Platinum's Rustenburg plant, the
world's single biggest platinum mine.
At least 50 officers, backed by armoured vehicles and two
helicopters, moved into a shanty town near the mine after the
miners torched homes in a dramatic escalation of a month-long
strike that has hit the company and global platinum prices.
Police said one man had been killed overnight after a mob
stripped him naked and beat him during a demonstration outside
the plant, which accounts for as much as 15 percent of world
Up to 5,000 miners blocked the road leading to the plant,
which lies 120 km (80 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, and
hurled stones at police, provincial police spokeswoman Adele
"This morning they regrouped, started intimidating people
who wanted to go to the mine. There were people assaulted,
vehicles were stoned," she said, adding that one female police
officer had been injured by flying stones.
"The road was barricaded, vehicles travelling on that road
were stoned, private vehicles as well as heavy-armed policed
She said that police had made eight arrests, but the
situation was still "very tense and hostile".
Production at Rustenburg, which accounts for 60 percent of
Implat's output, came to a halt a month ago after the company
sacked 17,000 employees following a Jan. 12 wildcat strike over
Since then, the price of platinum, a key ingredient
in catalytic converters in cars, has climbed 7 percent, in part
because of fears about supply disruptions. South Africa is home
to 80 percent of global platinum reserves.
60,000 OZ LOST
At a results conference in Johannesburg on Thursday, Implats
bosses said the firm had lost 1.2 billion rand ($155 million) in
revenue and warned that total output and earnings for the
remainder for the financial year would also take a hit.
Chief Executive David Brown told reporters the company had
re-hired 6,000 of the dismissed workers but added that he had no
idea when work at the mine would resume. The 35-day strike is
costing the company an average of 3,000 ounces a day.
"If workers don't come back to work, we'll have to hire new
people. It'll take two to four weeks to get back to operational
normality," Brown said.
Putting up with lengthy and often costly strikes is familiar
terrain for investors in South Africa, home to some of the
world's deepest and most dangerous mines.
Miners are increasingly looking for better pay in return for
the hazardous jobs and the government is pushing for an
industry-wide improvement in safety.
"The government is quite correctly very concerned around
safety issues and until those issues get fixed it is going to
cost these guys a lot of money," said Nic Norman-Smith, a
portfolio manager at Lentus Asset Management in Johannesburg.
Shares of Implats tumbled 3.1 percent to 159.69 rand, the
worst performers in Johannesburg's benchmark Top-40.
Implats said it had lost an additional 33,000 ounces in the
final four months of 2011 from government-ordered safety stops.
Some industry executives have criticised the safety push as too