South African armed forces protect multinational mining interests


KPFA Evening News, 09.22.2012 

Striking miners at the Lonmin Corporation's platinum mine in Marikana, South Africa, returned to work after accepting a 22% wage increase, but wildcat strikes have spread to other mines in the country's platinum belt, and South African armed forces have been deployed to contain them. KPFA spoke to David Van Wyk, mining researcher for the South African Council of Churches' Bench Marks Foundation.




KPFA Evening News Anchor Cameron Jones: Striking platinum miners in Marikana, South Africa, returned to work this week, after agreeing to a 22% wage increase with the London-based South Africa women protesting the South African police massacre of striking Marikana miners. Lonmin Corporation, but strikes have spread to other parts of the country's platinum belt. The Women of Marikana, site of the August 16th police massacre of 34 striking miners, planned to march today, for an end to police brutality and the withdrawal of armed forces deployed to the platinum belt a week ago. However, authorities banned the march and the Women of Marikana then rescheduled it for next Saturday, calling for support from civil society in South Africa and around the world.

KPFA's Ann Garrison spoke to David Van Wyk, a mining researcher for the South African Council of Churches Bench Marks Foundation, about the multinational mining corporations whose interests are being protected by South Africa's apparatus of force.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Now, you made a presentation to South African Parliament, right? 
David Van Wyk: Yes, actually on Wednesday.
KPFA: On Wednesday.
David Van Wyk: That's right. 
KPFA: With a Bench Marks report
David Van Wyk: That's right.
KPFA: From your Bench Marks map here, of the platinum belt, with all the mines on it, it looks like there are six companies operating here. One is very recognizable - Xtrata - that's the largest mining company in the world. Anglo Platinum, is that Anglo American?
David Van Wyk: Yes, Anglo American. Anglo American has a number of different divisions. It mines uranium, it mines gold, it mines a little bit of copper. It also mines platinum of course. So Anglo is kind of a diversified mining company. It's this umbrella organization and it has subdivisions, one in platinum, one in coal, one in diamonds. DeBeers belongs to Anglo American, and so on. 
KPFA: Is that related to Anglo Gold Ashanti? 
David Van Wyk: Yes, Anglo Gold Ashanti would also fall under that umbrella. 
KPFA: OK. Then Lonmin, which we've been hearing about, a British based corporation, Impala Platinum, and Aquarius. 
David Van Wyk: OK, Impala Platinum is an old company that started off as Gencor, when the Afrikaners wanted to have a stake in the mining industry after 1948 when they came to power - the white Afrikaans speaking part of the population in South Africa who dominated the National Party, which was in power from 1948 until 1994. And of course they then acquired mines from Anglo American, which before that had a near monopoly in mining in the country.
And one of the groups that they set up was Gencor and Gencor became Impala Platinum. But of course, post-1994, a lot of these companies de-listed from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and re-listed on the London Stock Exchange. 
Lonmin has also got an interesting colonial history, because Lonmin used to be London Rhodesia Mining Company and it was owned by Tiny Rowland. And Tiny Rowland was a big sanctions buster during the liberation struggle for Zimbabwe. He was someone who broke sanctions very frequently to try and sustain the white minority government in Rhodesia. 
Xtrata is a Swiss company but it's also now listed on the London Stock Exchange, but it's headquarters is in Zug, Switzerland, and 40 percent of Xtrata is owned by Glencore, and Glencore is the biggest commodity trading corporation in the world.  And they are on the verge of buying out Xtrata altogether, which will make Glencore the biggest mining company in the world, and they will have near monopoly control of many strategic minerals.
Now the other one, in the South African context, is very politically top heavy, with the Sisulu families and Mandela families, and the ANC Womens' League, having large chunks of shares.
KPFA: That's Aquarius? 
David Van Wyk: Yah, that is Aquarius. 
KPFA: OK, now regarding the Xtrata-Glencore deal:  If they control the majority of the strategic minerals in the world, what will the significance of that be? 
David Van Wyk: Glencore will be hugely powerful in relation to very weak African governments, and it will be able to dictate to them conditions of investment, and control of populations, and levels of democracy and so on in African countries - if it continues to go in the way that it is going. 
KPFA: For Pacifica, KPFA, and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.

Follow Ann Garrison on: