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Lonmin platinum mine, South Africa

August 16th 2012: 34 workers were killed and 78 injured. The response to one of the toughest rise ups in the country by workers of a Glencore mine


(Español, abajo) Summary of the conflict - The platinum mining corporation Lonmin, based in the UK, 25 % of which is currently owned by Glencore, has been denounced for its activities carried out in Marikana, Rustenburg, South Africa, since 2004. Lonmin’s activities have been linked by the affected communities with environmental damage caused by exceeding the limits of emission of dust, sulphur dioxide, and calcium sulphide, and for causing water pollution with irregular discharges. Moreover, and with regard to the workers it employs, on August 16th 2012, 34 workers were killed and 78 were injured by the South African Police and Lonmin Security Guards, while they were on strike and protesting peacefully. The protest was the result of a five-month long struggle targeting the corporation for a decent living wage. Needless to say, Lonmin’s actions, the complicity of Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president of the ANC, and now deputy president of the South African government, as well as the murderous actions of the SAPS, are all blatantly in violation of international human rights law, especially of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as in breach of basic international labour standards, recognized by the International Labour Organization. History of the conflict Despite being registered in the UK, Lonmin, since 1999, has all its operations in South Africa. It has been involved in controversies not only when it comes to its environmental impact but also in human rights violations. The Lonmin corporation has benefited from the South African government’s supportive policy framework for foreign investors, which has contributed to its continuing impunity. For instance, the air contamination resulting from Lonmin operations have greatly exceeded the limits for residential and industrial areas. Sulphur Dioxide is another worrying matter, as the limit quantity allowed keeps getting raised to accommodate the corporation’s needs. After exceeding the limit of 4.8 tonnes per day by eight and a half times in 2003, the bar was raised to 17.9 tonnes per day in 2011. Although this decreased again two years later, the levels of Sulphur Dioxide remain alarming. The solution by Lonmin, however seems to bring other contamination – since in reducing the emissions of SO2, Calcium Sulphide is being created as a waste product that contaminates the water of the area.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Lonmin platinum mine, South Africa
Country:South Africa
State or province:North West province
Location of conflict:Bojanala Platinum District Municipality, Rustenburg
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Coal extraction and processing
Mineral ore exploration
Tailings from mines
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Platinum
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:80,000 - 115,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/1999
Company names or state enterprises:Lonmin PLC from United Kingdom
Glencore Public Limited Company from Switzerland - Owner of 25 % of Lonmin's shares
Relevant government actors:South African Police Service (SAPS), Department of Mineral Resources, Department of Labour, Bojanala Platinum District Municipality, Rustenburg Municipality
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Bench Marks Foundation, Alternative Information and Development Centre, Mining Affected Communities in Action (MACUA), Woman Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA), WoMin regional alliance, Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power, Permanent Peoples Tribunal
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Presentation of the case to the Popular Peoples Tribunal
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (undecided)
Negotiated alternative solution
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:The workers reached a settlement with the mining company after a five -month long strike in 2014. The Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) is supporting the leading local trade union, AMCU, to fundraise for sustaining its campaign for decent wages and housing. The AIDC and the Trade Union are investigating the suspected tax evasion and transfer pricing in relation to Lonmin.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The government does not seem likely to punish the mining companies for their environmental and economic crimes. Regarding the Marikana Massacre, it will all depend on the outcome of the Farlam Commission report and how these get taken up. The miners and their families are preparing to lodge significant civil claims against the state and possibly also Lonmin which may yield some justice for the deceased and injured workers and their families.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
[click to view]

International Labour Organisation basic standards
[click to view]

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
[click to view]

The Marikana Commission of Inquiry
[click to view]

Testimony of the case in the Permanent Peoples Tribunal Hearing - Corporate Human Rights Violations and Peoples Access to Justice. Geneva, 23 June 2014
[click to view]

Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power
[click to view]

Alternative Information and Development Centre
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

NCA - Marikana Massacre documentary
[click to view]

Other comments:See more at:,
Meta information
Contributor:Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power, Transnational Institute - TNI
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2005
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