South Africa Sends Army to End Rioting at Mine

South Africa sent troops to end rioting at the world’s largest platinum mine after owner Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (IMP) asked for government help to stop violence stemming from an illegal strike that has halted output.

Protesters set fire to cars overnight, barricading the main road to Sun City, a resort within the platinum-producing region near Rustenburg, Impala Chief Executive Officer David Brown said today. The police presence at the mine has been inadequate, failing to end attacks and intimidation and prompting a request to the Security Minister to intervene, he said.

While strikes aren’t rare in South Africa, and can be violent at times, it’s unusual for the military to be involved, Wayne McCurrie, a fund manager at Johannesburg-based RMB Asset Management, said by phone today. “That’s reminiscent of the 1980s” when the apartheid system imposed by the then minority white government was still in place, he said.

Impala last week fired 17,200 workers at the mine, which accounts for about 12 percent of global production of platinum, used in jewelry and cars. The disruption has caused lost output of 60,000 ounces worth about 1.2 billion rand ($153 million) as of Feb. 14, Brown told reporters on a conference call. The mine came to a halt Jan. 30 and it may take a further three or four weeks to restore operations, curbing global supplies, he said.

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