South African Mine Workers Brutally Murdered for Crossing Picket Line

Palladium futures soared today to a new 3-year high of $829.20 per oz, before settling up $11.50 to $828.80 per oz. This was the third straight day of palladium price gains, with palladium futures rising $29.05 per oz or 3.6% over the last four trading days.

Platinum futures are also soaring, with platinum today reaching a new 9-week high of $1,487.60 per oz, before settling up $29.70 to $1,485.70 per oz. This was the third straight day of platinum price gains, with platinum futures rising $55.80 per oz or 3.9% over the last four trading days.

South Africa is the largest producer of platinum and second largest producer of palladium (after Russia). Over 80,000 South African mine workers have been on strike since January 23rd. It was announced by Lonmin on May 2nd that their mine workers had until May 8th to accept their latest wage offer and needed to return to work by today.

Earlier this week, four South African mine workers were brutally murdered for crossing the picket line. Brigadier Thulani Ngubane, a Lonmin male employee, 60, was hacked to death by machete on his way to work at a Saffi shaft. Two more Lonmin mine workers, a man and a woman, were found dead in their homes with open wounds on their necks. In addition, a middle-aged man who was a contact worker at Lonmin was burnt to death after his shack was set alight.

Today, police in armored vehicles were present in the living areas around Lonmin’s mines, helping escort employees who wished to return to work. However, the situation remains extremely tense with people walking around, carrying weapons, preventing employees the safe opportunity to reach the police armored vehicles.

The striking unions want their basic monthly pay, without benefits, to be more than doubled for entry-level underground employees to 12,500 rand ($1,211) by 2017. Total South African production of platinum group metals (PGMs) declined 44.3% in March on a year-over-year basis.