“Investigations are underway but yes, there were loss of lives,” police ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi told AFP in a text message.
“What happened today at Lonmin is something that was unfortunate and should not have happened in post-democracy because to protest is a legal and constitutional right of any citizen.”
“However, these rights do not imply that people should be barbaric, intimidating and hold illegal gatherings,” he said. “We had a situation where people who were armed to the teeth, attacked and killed other.”
Police on Thursday moved to disperse hundreds of mineworkers armed with machetes, sticks and metal rods who had camped for two days on a hillside near the mine run by London-listed Lonmin outside the northwest town of Rustenburg.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets, while some of the miners reportedly retaliated with live fire.
As the crowd fled, at least five people were left lying on the ground, according to an AFP reporter, some bleeding from their wounds.