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MARIKANA, South Africa (AP) — Mining strikes are spreading in South Africa with labor unrest forcing the closure Wednesday of the world's largest platinum, Anglo American's Amplats mine.
More than 1,000 strikers are blocking access to the main shaft at the Amplats mine near Rustenburg. Anglo American Platinum said operations had been suspended and staff "redirected" for their safety, according to the South African news agency, SAPA.
This is the third South African mine hit by strikes.
The strike at Lonmin Platinum's Marikana mine entered its fifth week Wednesday. Just 1.8 percent of its employees reported for work at the mine Wednesday, the company reported. Forty-five people have died at Marikana, including 34 shot by police on Aug. 16. The most recent death is a body found Tuesday with machete wounds to the head, according to Lonmin.
The third mine on strike is the Gold Fields KDC West gold mine near Carletonville where company security fired tear gas at strikers who were trying to stop a train, according to the company. The Gold Fields strike started earlier this week. Eighty-five percent of the workers stayed away from work Wednesday, said Gold Fields.
At all three mines workers are demanding pay increases to give them 12,500 rand ($1,560) per month take-home pay. This is about double the pay that miners currently receive.
Firebrand politician Julius Malema, who was expelled from the ruling African National Congress party, has endorsed the demand of 12,500 and urged nation-wide mine strikes.
"All the miners in South Africa are demanding 12,500 rand," said Malema, speaking to thousands of the Gold Fields miners on Tuesday. "You must now benefit from this gold you are mining. You want a piece of gold. You get 12,500 rand."
On Wednesday Malema spoke to about 100 suspended military in Lenasia, outside Johannesburg. He strongly criticized President Jacob Zuma's government for not taking more action following the shootings by police at the Marikana mine in which 34 strikers were killed.
"We only have ourselves, we only have our voices, we only have our minds to fight this barbaric regime under president Zuma, to fight this murderous regime under president Zuma," said Malema. "Our people cannot be killed. Thirty-four of them in less than 15 minutes and nothing happens in South Africa."