South African police fired tear gas on Thursday to disperse a group of striking coal miners a day after security guards killed two workers that had tried to break into a locked mine-explosives armoury at Forbes & Manhattan Coal Corp. (TSX:FMC) operations.
The deaths, confirmed by the Toronto-based company on Wednesday, are the latest in a series of violent labour unrest affecting the country since August, when 34 people were killed by police at Lonmin's (LON:JSE) Marikana platinum mine (image).
The Canadian miner added it has suspended operations at its Magdalena and Aviemore underground coal mines in South Africa, hit by strikes since Oct. 17.
“In order to ensure the safety of all our employees and to safeguard our assets, we have taken a decision to suspend all operations until such time as deemed safe and appropriate by management and the board,” Forbes Coal president Stephan Theron said.
So far over 30,000 miners have been fired in different South African operations, causing the country’s economy serious damage.
Globally South Africa is the fourth largest producer of iron ore, holds the same rank for annual gold production, is number one in platinum output and holds fifth spot for steam coal.
Recent figures show a severe broadening of South Africa’s trade deficit, reaching $1.6-billion. It was the largest in more than three years and wildcat strikes that caused a drop in exports of metals and other mining products are to blame.