Police and mining officials Wednesday sought to defuse a strike that sparked clashes between rival unions leaving 10 people dead and shutting down a Lonmin platinum operation.
About 3,000 people gathered on a hill near the mine run by London-listed Lonmin, many of them carrying sticks, machetes and metal bars.
Two helicopters hovered overhead as police and mining officials addressed the crowd. Journalists were kept about 200 metres (yards) away.
"Let us listen to each other. We are here to talk," one official said in Fanagalo, a unique language spoken in mines which is a mix of English and various African tongues.
"The situation is tense and unpredictable, we're monitoring," police spokesman Dennis Adriao said, adding that negotiations with workers were continuing.
Troubles at the mine, near the North West province town of Rustenburg about 100 kilometres (65 miles) from Johannesburg, erupted on Friday when hundreds of rock drill operators launched a wildcat strike.
Some are reportedly demanding that their wages are more than tripled, from 4,000 rand ($488, 397 euros) to 12,500 rand a month.
Clashes broke out during the weekend between members of the upstart Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
The NUM is one of the most influential pillars of the Cosatu labour federation, which is part of South Africa's governing alliance led by the ruling African National Congress.
Cosatu has denounced the violence, and both unions claim to be victims of the attacks which have left 10 people dead, including two police.
Work has been halted at the mine, dealing another blow to an already struggling industry which saw several platinum mines shut down since June.
South Africa has around 87 percent of the world's platinum resources and is the largest producer of the metal, used in vehicle catalytic converters to cut pollution.
In February, two workers were killed at a mine owned by Impala Platinum during clashes between the rival unions, but the Lonmin violence is the deadliest yet.
The mining sector is the biggest private employer in South Africa, whose workforce is among the most unionised in the world.
The 10th victim was found Tuesday, about 100 metres from the hilltop where workers were gathered. The man was wearing khaki clothes, the body lying face up with the skull of an animal placed on his chest, according to the South African Press Association.
Police were still investigating the killing.
Lonmin has rejected claims that it has not done enough to protect workers.
"I do not know any company that has the competency to deal with such vicious acts," spokesman Barnard Mokwena said Tuesday.
"We are dealing with people who crossed security lines repeatedly."