Anglo American halts South African mine work
Protesters at Anglo American's mine near Rustenburg.

Global miner Anglo American has announced that it has suspended platinum operations in Rustenburg, South Africa, in order to protect its employees amid ongoing labour unrest.

"Anglo American Platinum announces the suspension of its Rustenburg platinum operations in order to protect the safety and security of its employees from outside intimidation," the world's top platinum producer, also known as Amplats, said.

Hundreds of people barricaded roads leading to the mine as labour unrest spread in South Africa's key industry, police said.

"Our employees are not on strike," added Anglo American Platinum chief executive officer Chris Griffith.

"However, in light of the current volatile situation in the Rustenburg area, where our employees, who want to go to work, are being prevented from doing so and are being intimidated by the threat of violence, Anglo American Platinum has decided to suspend its operations in the Rustenburg area with immediate effect.

"The suspension will continue until such time as operations can be safely resumed," added Mr Griffith.

South Africa's mines have in recent weeks been hit by unrest following a wildcat strike at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine that has so far claimed 45 lives.

On Tuesday, maverick politician Julius Malema called for national strikes across all South African mines for five days each month, to fight for a basic salary of 12,500 rands ($A1432)) - around three times the current average.

Cynthia Carroll, chairman of Anglo American Platinum and chief executive of Anglo American, stressed on Wednesday that the safety of employees was the group's "absolute priority".

"We have taken this decision to suspend our operations in order to help ensure the safety of our employees - our absolute priority," Ms Carroll said.

"Our people want to work and it is unacceptable that they are not able to go to work safely and instead are facing considerable intimidation.

"We are in touch with the authorities at the highest level to identify how we can work together with our tripartite partners - government and the recognised labour unions - to achieve a swift and peaceful resolution to these illegal actions."

Ms Carroll added that the suspension would add to uncertainty over the future of Rustenburg.

"Our objective is to safely return to production as soon as possible. Our Rustenburg operations are already under considerable economic pressure and the longer it is necessary to continue this suspension, the greater the risk to their long-term viability," she said.

The West Australian

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