South African miner Gold Fields on Tuesday fired 8,500 workers who refused to halt an illegal stoppage at its KDC East mine, a spokesman said. \"All 8,500 people who were on strike did not come back. They did not return to work, so we have issued dismissal letters to all of them,\" spokesman Sven Lunsche told AFP. Workers have 24 hours to appeal their dismissal, he added. Workers at the last striking mine of the world\'s fourth gold producer in Carletonville, southwest of Johannesburg, had ignored an ultimatum to clock in at 4:00 pm (14H00 GMT). The firm let go 1,500 strikers at its KDC West mine on October 18, though most later appealed their dismissal. Mass dismissals are not unheard of in South Africa and are often part of a hard-ball negotiating strategy on the part of mine owners. Tens of thousands of workers across South Africa\'s mining sector have been involved in a spate of illegal strikes over pay and conditions. The stayaways have crippled production in a sector that fuels 19 percent of South Africa\'s economy, prompting pressure from employers, government and even the workers\' own unions.