Platinum giant Lonmin said it would fire anyone at its South African mine who did not return to work Tuesday, a day after the world's third-largest platinum producer reopened the plant where 44 people were killed in a wildcat strike.
Lonmin said about 27 percent of the Marikana mine's 28,000 employees came to work on Monday and warned that miners were expected to show up at 7:00 am Tuesday, or face dismissal.
The 11-day illegal strike by about 3,000 rock drill operators had closed production at Marikana, where 34 people were gunned down by police Thursday after 10 others were killed earlier in clashes between rival unions.
The powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) also urged workers to take up their tools, but called for an extension of the deadline as the miners' families were still identifying bodies and arranging funerals.
Miners arrested for allegedly being involved in violent clashes between protesting workers and police at the Lonmin mine board police vehicles after appearing in court near Pretoria, on August 20, 2012. The 11-day illegal strike by about 3,000 rock drill operators has closed production at the mine, where 34 people were gunned down by police Thursday after 10 others were killed earlier in clashes.
But the upstart Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) -- the driving force behind the wildcat strike -- still sounded defiant, accusing Lonmin and the NUM of a conspiracy to rid the mine of its members.
"We are not safe. Our phones have been tapped," AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa told a crowd at a shantytown near the mine. "They will then together analyse and draw up a list. Any AMCU member will then be fired."
His group launched the strike calling for a tripling of the basic monthly wage of 4,000 rand ($486).
That led to clashes with the NUM whose membership has eroded since the emergence of the AMCU.
But Lonmin said it had not formally received any demands from the strikers and said the AMCU had not participated in its talks with workers.
"Our priority is to return to normality. We are in consultations with the unions, NUM, which is the majority union at the mine," top Lonmin mining official Mark Munroe told a news conference.
"What has happened here has been a tragedy, and the pain and anger it has led to will take time to heal," he said in a statement.
"But those representing the vast majority of our workforce have been clear again in our discussions today that we need to try to return to some kind of normality as we go through that healing process."
Monday was the first day of a week of national mourning declared by President Jacob Zuma, with nationwide memorials planned for Thursday.
Thousands of workers gathered in a field near the mine, without the machetes and other weapons that had marked earlier gatherings.
Some accused Lonmin of insensitivity for expecting them to go back to work while they are still in mourning. Six bodies still have not been identified, according to the government.
"They can fire us if they want, we are not going back to work. Zuma must shut down that mine," one worker said.
Just over a quarter of Lonmin's workforce complied with the company's ultimatum to return to work on Monday morning, amid a wildcat strike that has seen 44 people killed over the last 11 days. Duration: 00:32
Few police were seen on patrol Monday, though a helicopter sometimes passed in the distance.
A court outside the capital Pretoria on Monday heard charges ranging from murder to public violence against the 259 men arrested after Thursday's crackdown, when police opened fire on hundreds of strikers armed mainly with spears, machetes and clubs.
After the dust settled, 34 were dead and 78 wounded in the bloodiest day of protest since the fall of white-minority apartheid rule in 1994.
Riot police stood guard outside the court, with armed police in the courtroom, as about 100 people clamoured for a glimpse of their loved ones.
The World Bank's private investment unit meanwhile expressed concerns about the violence and encouraged dialogue to resolve the problems.
"The issues are serious and IFC encourages all parties to resolve the dispute through constructive dialogue and negotiation," it said in an email to AFP.
The IFC holds a six-year-old, 0.61 percent equity stake in Lonmin.
The IFC's role at the mine has been small.
It said that in 2006, it launched a four-year programme aimed at spreading the economic benefits of Lonmin's operations, promoting "increased job opportunities for women, HIV/AIDS awareness training, and support to small businesses".
South Africa holds more than 80 percent of the world's reserves of platinum, popular for jewellery but mainly used to make catalytic converters on cars, which scrub their emissions of pollutants.
Weak demand in major auto markets has taken a toll on the industry, and several mines have been forced to close this year.
Fears of layoffs have heightened tensions among mine workers, a situation the radical AMCU has exploited to gain membership with the promise of hefty wages and claims that the politically connected NUM has become too cozy in the corridors of power.