Royal Dutch Shell Declares 'Force Majeure' As South African Strikes Intensify

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Royal Dutch Shell PLC (London: RDSA), the world's fourth-largest energy company by market capitalization, said Friday it would be unable to fulfill all delivery commitments in South Africa as the country grapples with the strikes of 20,000 truck drivers and 75,000 metal miners.

The Hague, Netherlands-based Shell declared a "force majeure" that allows it to break contracts due to uncontrollable circumstances. "There is fuel available across the country, so the issue is not fuel supply, but the challenge is delivering it safely to our retail sites," the company said in a statement to Reuters.

Violence continued throughout the country as police shot one worker dead near a platinum mine in Rustenburg owned by Anglo American PLC (London: AAL). Workers told Reuters that the person was shot by a rubber bullet, but police would not confirm the cause of death. A total of 48 workers and police have been killed since strikes began, including 34 deaths at the Marikana mine owned by Lonmin PLC (London: LMI).

Companies including AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. (NYSE: AU), the country's biggest gold producer, Gold Fields Ltd. (NYSE: GFI) and Harmony Gold Mining Co. (NYSE: HMY) have also been affected by strikes, which have encompassed around 15 percent of the country's miners.

South Africa's Finance Minister, Pravi Gordham, plans to cut the country's 2012 GDP growth forecast down from 2.7 percent, when he presents an interim budget on Oct. 24.

The South African rand fell 1.68 percent to 11.5 cents in Friday morning trading. Shares of Shell rose 0.49 percent to $71.92 in morning trading.

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