South Africa: Two striking miners shot dead by security guards at coal mine

Striking miners protest on the hill at the AngloGold Ashanti mine in Carletonville, northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, on October 22, 2012. AngloGold Ashanti, the world's third-largest gold producer, became today the latest mining firm to issue an ultimatum to striking workers in South Africa that they must return to the mines or be dismissed.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Security guards have shot dead two striking miners at a South African coal mine, the latest incident of violence to hit this country's troubled mining industry.

Guards at the Magdalena mine, owned by Toronto-based Forbes & Manhattan Coal Corp., are accused of killing two men who tried to break into the mine's armory, near Dannhauser in KwaZulu-Natal province, according to reports.

The incident began when about 100 workers, on a strike over wages, gathered Wednesday at the Ladybank pit, a police spokesman told the South African Press Association

More from GlobalPost: South Africa's Jacob Zuma spent $28 million of public money to make his house cooler

The guards are accused of chasing some of the strikers to a nearby informal settlement and opening fire, SAPA reported. Two injured men were taken for medical treatment, but later died.

Police are now investigating two counts of murder.

On Thursday, police used tear gas to disperse striking miners from a processing plant, also owned by Forbes Coal, located in the KwaZulu-Natal town of Dundee.

Stephan Theron, chief executive of Forbes Coal in a statement expressed condolences to family members of the deceased. 

"In order to ensure the safety of all our employees and to safeguard our assets, we have taken a decision to suspend all operations until such time as deemed safe and appropriate by management and the board," Theron said.

Months of wildcat strikes at some of South Africa’s biggest gold and platinum mines are taking their toll on the country's mining industry. In August, police shot dead 34 striking miners at the Marikana platinum mine.

Two major rating agencies have lowered the country’s credit rating and warned of the social, political and economic challenges going forward. 

More from GlobalPost: New coal mine threatens historic South African site