South African gold mine fires over 8,000 workers

Striking mine workers protest outside an Anglo American mine on October 5, 2012 in Rustenburg, South Africa.

Gold Fields, the world’s fourth-largest producer of gold, has fired 8,500 South African miners after they refused to return to work on Tuesday, Business Report reported. This brings the number of fired miners in South Africa to at least 26,000.

Thousands of workers at Gold Fields' KDC mine had been striking over a trade union dispute, BBC News reported. "All 8,500 people who were on strike did not come back," Goldfields' spokesman Sven Lunsche told the AFP. "They did not return to work, so we have issued dismissal letters to all of them."

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On Tuesday, Gold Fields warned that the striking workers would lose their jobs if they did not return to the mine, Reuters reported. Mining protests have spread across South Africa, turning violent at times. On Monday, a government commission heard opening statements in its investigation into the infamous "Marikana massacre" from August, in which police shot and killed 34 miners.