At least 18 bodies were seen lying bloody and motionless on the ground after local police opened fire on striking miners, a South African news agency reports. Some of the protesters were allegedly armed with machetes and spears.
The incident is believed to have occurred after police, in the process of laying down barricades of barbed wire, were outflanked by a crowd of 3,000 demonstrators.
Nine people had been killed prior to Thursday’s clashes in a spate of protest in the mining town, located northwest of Johannesburg. The platinum mine, owned by Lonmin PLC, has been the focal point of protests over wage disputes since last Friday.
Fighting intensified over the weekend when two police officers were killed. Striking workers and local security guards have also been caught up in the violence.
Some 3,000 police massed in the area on Wednesday, some wearing riot gear and supported by helicopters. Demonstrators were reinforced on Thursday by a group of women pledging to stand by their husbands in their demand for increased wages.
Lonmin announced that the disruption means the company is unlikely to meet its 2012 production targets. Shares in the company have tumbled 6 percent following Thursday’s violence, bringing total losses since the outset of the strike to 13 percen.