Inter-union clashes leave nine dead at South Africa mine

Nine people have died in riots which broke out between rival unions at Lonmin's West Marikana platinum mine in South Africa.

Clashes between rival unions, the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, started on 10 August following a strike by Rock Drill Operators.

Lonmin has now shut down all its shafts across the South Afican platinum belt but services such as ventilation are continuing.

The dead include seven miners and two policemen, the company said in a statement.

According to Police Spokesperson Brigadier Thulani Ngubane, who spoke to the BBC, the attackers carried out riots in large crowds before dispersing.

"We came under attack. The suspects took our weapons. A shootout ensued and during that incident three suspects were fatally injured," the spokesman said.

Lonmin said it will make further announcements as matters develop and "as the impact on production and operations becomes clearer."

South Africa, one of the world's biggest platinum producers, also has one of the most unionised work forces in the world.

Earlier this month, Aquarius Platinum briefly shut one of its shafts after an attack that left three dead and at least 20 injured, Reuters reports.