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Two survivors told the Daily Dispatch that many of the miners drank a brown muti, or traditional medicine, to strengthen themselves ahead of the confrontation with police.

“They were cut several times on their upper body, and a black substance was smeared on the wounds,” Nothi Zimanga said, according to the newspaper in East London, in the country’s Eastern Cape where many miners come from. “They were then told when they confront the police they must not look back and must just charge forward. If you look back, then the muti will not work.”

Miner Bulelani Malawana said he was offered the muti for $125 but turned it down.

Some 3,000 rock drill operators started the strike Aug. 10 demanding higher wages. The operators are among the least educated of mine workers, often illiterate, and they pride themselves of doing the most dangerous job in the mine.

Sue Vey, a public relations specialist representing Lonmin, said about 33 percent of workers expected for the morning shift reported for work Tuesday, up only slightly on 30 percent who reported Monday in response to an earlier ultimatum.

Another publicist for Lonmin, Gillian Findlay, said that only 19.5 percent of rock drill operators showed up Tuesday.

Lonmin said the mine had resumed operations on Monday.

Ms. Vey said workers were mainly involved in sweeping, making areas safe and having briefings. Industry experts say a workforce of at least 80 percent is needed to actually produce platinum.

The mine cannot operate without rock drill operators, who man the massive drills deep underground.

Nqobile Ntshangase contributed to this article.