Mining companies to pay about R5bn to mineworkers after silicosis settlement

Mining companies are going to fork out about R5bn to mineworkers after an historic class action settlement was reached with those suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis on Thursday.

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 R1.4bn for the first two years of benefit payments‚” the Legal Resources Centre said in a media statement.

The draft settlement was signed at the Sunnyside Park Hotel‚ Parktown‚ Johannesburg and will provide a medical examination and compensation to mineworkers who worked from March 12 1965 to date.

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

Mining companies agreed to contribute R845m in administration costs to the trust.

Mineworkers’ benefits will increase annually in line with the consumer price index (CPI) 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 tuberculosis.

There are ten 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. This is the equivalent of second degree silicosis in the ODMWA;
– Up to R500‚000 for silicosis class 4 with defined special aggravated medical condition. This category provides relief to a small number of claimants who are suffering from extraordinary disease conditions which exceed most other silicotic claimants. There is no equivalent ODMWA compensation category;
– R100‚000 for dependants of a deceased eligible silicosis claimant who died between March 1965 and the effective date;
– R70‚000 for dependant of a deceased eligible silicosis claimant who died between January 1‚ 2008 and terminating on the effective date;
– R50‚000 for first degree tuberculosis. Claimants must have worked underground at a mine for two years and diagnosed with first degree tuberculosis within a year of working at least one shift at a mine;
– R100‚000 for second degree tuberculosis with the same conditions;
– R10‚000 for “historical” tuberculosis. This means in the absence of medical report determining degree of tuberculosis. Claimants must have worked at a mine for two years between March 12 1965 and February 28 1994‚ issued with a tuberculosis certificate within a year of working at least one shift at a mine;
– R100‚000 for dependants of a mineworker who died from tuberculosis who worked two years at a mine and died within a year after working a shift at a mine.

The Legal Resources Centre said mining companies have made progress in underground dust prevention‚ but must continue improving to prevent future silicosis and tuberculosis in gold mining.

LRC national director Janet Love said silicosis showed that the vestiges of apartheid still lingered in South Africa.

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‚ black miners underwent 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 in which to remove the dust from their bodies.”

By: Nico Gous – TimesLIVE

Source: TMG Digital.

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