Compensation for mineworkers

Mineworkers' representatives and mining companies have reached an agreement to compensate victims of silicosis and TB. / ALON SKUY
Mineworkers' representatives and mining companies have reached an agreement to compensate victims of silicosis and TB. / ALON SKUY

Mining companies are going to fork out about R5-billion to mineworkers after a historic class action settlement was reached with those suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis yesterday.

The settlement was the first of its kind in South Africa. It was reached between the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), Abrahams Kiewitz Inc and Richard Spoor
Attorneys - who represented thousands of mineworkers - and the Occupational Lung Disease (OLD) Working Group - who represented African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony, Sibanye Stillwater and Pan African Resources.

"The companies will make an initial contribution for benefit payments of R1.4-billion for the first two years of benefit payments," the LRC said in a statement.

The draft settlement signed in Johannesburg will provide medical examination and compensation to mineworkers who worked from March 12 1965 to date.

The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg will now review the draft settlement. Once it has been approved, a trust deed will be set up.

"There is no limit on the number of potential claimants . Individuals will be entitled to opt out if they do not wish to participate in the settlement," the LRC said.

The parties compromised and reached a settlement out of concern for the "inevitably lengthy and expensive litigation".

Mining companies agreed to contribute R845-million in administration costs to the trust. Mineworkers' benefits will increase annually in line with consumer price index from the third year of the trust.

Silicosis is a progressive disease of the lungs caused by breathing in silica dust in gold mines, which can lead to TB.

There are 10 classes of claimants:

● R70 000 for silicosis Class 1. This is an early stage of silicosis (lung function impairment of up to 10%)

● R150 000 for silicosis Class 2. This is the equivalent of first degree silicosis in the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODMWA);

● R250 000 for silicosis Class 3, the equivalent of second-degree silicosis in the ODMWA;

● Up to R500 000 for silicosis Class 4 with defined aggravated medical condition;

● R100 000 for dependants of a deceased eligible silicosis claimant who died from March 1965 to date;

● R70 000 for dependants of a deceased eligible silicosis claimant who died between January 1 2008 and terminating on the effective date;

The LRC said mining companies have made progress in underground dust prevention, but must continue improving to prevent future silicosis and TB in mines.

LRC national director Janet Love said silicosis showed that the vestiges of apartheid still lingered in SA. She said according to documents  they had obtained, the treatment black mineworkers had received was inadequate compared to that of white mineworkers.

"In medical examinations, blacks unde rwent mini X-ray tests that were
difficult to read and did not effectively detect silicosis.

White miners, on the other hand, had full-size X-ray tests. Black miners also did the dustiest jobs and, unlike white miners, they did not have access to on-site showers or changing rooms."

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