South Africa weighs peacekeeping force around mines

South Africa’s Labour Minister, Mildred Oliphant, has said the government was “seriously considering” the deployment of peacekeeping forces to contain the new wave of violence affecting the country’s mining sector.

The warning, reports, is a clear sign of an industry under siege, hit by a vicious union turf war and labour demands that has coincided with a global decline in commodity prices.

Peacekeeping forces are typically found in war zones, but the shooting at Lonmin’s (LON:LMI) mine on Monday, which cost the life of a union member, has highlighted a creeping crisis in South Africa’s mining sector. This problem became evident last year, when police killed 34 protesters also at Lonmin during an illegal wage strike.

And as the annual wage bargaining season begins, authorities fear the situation will get worse, impacting the already struggling economy and the country’s image.

“If there is a need to deploy that peacekeeping force, we have to do so in the mining sector as a whole," Oliphant was quoted as saying. "We can't take a chance that since it has not happened here, probably it is not going to happen."

Her comments came on the same day that newly merged commodity giant Glencore Xstrata (LON:GLEN) fired 1,000 workers across three of its chrome mines for an illegal strike last week that brought operations to a standstill.

South Africa accounts for 75% of world PGM output. The country’s mining sector, which accounts for 6% of gross domestic product, has been repeatedly hit by disputes over low wages that reflect widespread anger over enduring inequalities in the economy.

Image of peacekeeping forces by Sadik Gulec/