Tensions mounted in South Africa's resources industry yesterday as Anglo American fired 12,000 platinum miners, Shell declared force majeure on fuel deliveries and unrest in the mining industry spread to take another life.
In a day of developments that put further pressure on a struggling South African economy, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) fired almost half of the workers involved in a three-week illegal strike that it said cost it 39,000 ounces in output and 700m rand (£51m) in revenues.
Amplats said the miners had failed to attend disciplinary hearings and had therefore been dismissed.
The redundancies were announced towards the end of a dramatic day. This included a warning from Shell that it could not honour fuel delivery contracts around Johannesburg as a strike by more than 20,000 truckers entered its third week.
"There is fuel available across the country so the issue is not fuel supply but the challenge is delivering it safely to our retail sites," a Shell spokesman said.
Shell's decision was also influenced by disruption in the mining sector, as police allegedly shot dead a striking Amplats miner, taking the toll in two months of labour unrest across the country's resources industry to 48. Force majeure allows the company and its customers to break contracts due to situations beyond their control and its invocation is a sign that the truckers' strike is starting to bite in Africa's biggest economy, which is under strain from walkouts by platinum, gold and iron ore miners.
The miner was shot as hundreds of protesters barricaded the streets with rocks and burning tyres near the "platinum belt" city of Rustenburg, 70 miles northwest of Johannesburg, close to a mine belonging to Amplats.