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Lonmin questioned about workers

29 November 2013


Scene of violence: people pray at a service held on 16 August for the Marikana miners killed last year

Scene of violence: people pray at a service held on 16 August for the Marikana miners killed last year

THE Church of England has expressed concerns about the firm whose platinum mine was the setting for the killing of 34 striking miners in South Africa last year (News, 24 August 2012). Both the Church Commissioners and the C of E's pension fund hold shares in Lonmin, which owns the Marikana mine, near Rustenberg.

After a week-long wildcat strike in August last year, police shot dead 34 miners who were demanding better pay.

It has emerged that the Church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) has contacted Lonmin, which is based in London, several times since the shooting to question the firm about its treatment of its workers.

In a statement, the EIAG said that it wrote to Lonmin in August 2012 "to express its concern about labour relations at Marikana. It also took advice from the Church Investors Group in South Africa about the factors causing labour unrest in platinum mining in South Africa."

Representatives from the EIAG and Lonmin met in March this year, to discuss what EIAG describes as the firm's "labour-relations problem". The statement said: "The company recognised that the employment model at Marikana . . . was not working. It explained that it was actively looking into new employment and housing models."

The Church Commissioners' shares in Lonmin are worth about £455,000, and the Pensions Board's holding is approximately £250,000.

Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for The Observer revealed on Sunday that, two days before the shooting, Lonmin bosses had met police, and agreed that decisive action should be taken to break the strike. There is no evidence that the company or the police planned to shoot the miners, but the investigation describes how Lonmin executives lobbied for greater police pressure on the striking miners.

The EIAG statement said that it was following the latest developments, and would "continue to engage with the company as appropriate". Lonmin has refused to comment, as it is waiting to give evidence to the official South African inquiry into the massacre.

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