34 protesters were shot dead by police at Lonmin mine in South Africa (Reuters)

Miners arrested during the recent clashes at the Lonmin mine in Marikana have been charged with murdering 34 of their colleagues - even though it has been confirmed that the victims were killed by police.

The 270 arrested miners are to be tried under the "common purpose" doctrine, whereby people participating in a criminal activity can be charged for all the consequences of this activity.

The policemen's actions during the clashes, which erupted following a strike by oil drillers over wages, will be investigated separately by a commission of inquiry.

"In a situation where there are suspects that confront members of the South African Police Service (Saps) and a shooting takes place resulting in the fatalities of either Saps or the suspects... those who get arrested, irrespective of whether they shot police members or the police shot them, are charged with murder," National Prosecution Agency spokesman Frank Lesenyego said.

The decision is likely to cause further unrest in South Africa, where tension between protesters and authorities has been very high since the incident.

About 100 people are reported to have taken part in protests outside the Ga-Rankuwa magistrates court, where 264 of the detained miners are to appear. The other six workers have been in hospital since the Marikana incident.

Meanwhile the miners' strike continues. The number of Marikana miners reporting to work each day has fallen to just 7.7 percent, the lowest number since the strike began on 10 August.