In the negotiations at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in 2012, one of the rockdrill operators demanding R12,500 a month approached a manager he knew: “Please help us!” he pleaded. When the manager recounted this story to a mutual friend, his eyes welled up: over the loss of life for so small a sum given the salaries earned by executives; over his inability to mediate given the way the mining industry tallies the cost of labour against the fluctuating values of metals and currencies.

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