Ailing mine workers push for compensation

Miners are at constant risk of contracting respiratory diseases and employers do not seem to care.

Alphias Blom, 49, is a former gold miner at Welkom's Anglo President Steyn Mine in Free State. He was diagnosed with silicosis in 2001. Silicosis sufferers have a high risk of tuberculosis and lung cancer.

Blom jetted off to London, England, on Wednesday to attend Anglo American Corporation's annual general meeting scheduled for yesterday.

Before leaving he told Sowetan: "I hope they will recognise the problem, especially when they see me in person.

"As we speak I need to be helped by someone because I get tired very quickly. I hope the big executives will learn.

"I cannot work or do any sort of lengthy or manual work. I have children and cannot be the strong father they expect me to be. It is tough living with this disease and they must know how miners are affected," Blom added.

A London-based law firm Leigh Day and Co is working with the Legal Resources Centre in Johannesburg to represent the plaintiffs.

Blom was invited by War on Want and London Mining Network.

"Blom represents other plaintiffs in a test litigation case trying to establish the legal principles on which the industry should compensate silicosis victims and the establishment of a silicosis and tuberculosis medical monitoring scheme for former miners," said Richard Meeran from Leigh Day and Co.

"The mines cannot just look at profit and neglect the workers."

Silicosis has parallels with asbestos. It is a lung disease caused by intense and lengthy exposure to silica-containing dust. The disease does not manifest immediately, sometime taking up to 30 years after dust exposure to show symptoms.

According to the 1994 Leon Commission of enquiry, dust levels on the gold mines in South Africa had not improved for 50 years.

The litigation started in 2004 in the Johannesburg high court but was delayed for two years. The trail expected to take place next year.

The case is against Anglo American SA, the former Anglo parent company, which is now a subsidiary of London-based Anglo American Corporation.