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f0393 BC-AF-SouthAfrica-Mines 2ndLd-Writethru 07-10 0257

Protesting SAfrican miners hold underground sit-in

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Four supervisors being held hostage by 500 miners in an underground protest have been released, the management of a platinum mine in South Africa said Friday.

The miners are holding a "sit-in" 30 meters (100 feet) below the surface at Eastern Platinum’s Crocodile River mine northwest of Johannesburg.

Charmane Russell, a spokeswoman for the Canadian-based mining company, said the supervisors were released early Friday evening.

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Eight supervisors were initially being held when the protest began Thursday morning in a deeper shaft, but four managed to escape using underground tunnels.

Miners’ union official Stheti Mxhasi has denied workers took any hostages and said management had cut water supplies to the protesters, a claim the mine denies.

The workers, who are contracted to the mine through other companies, are demanding to be made full-time employees.

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