R464m silicosis compensation from ‘top-up fund’

Two Anglo American mines paid R464m silicosis compensation to 4400 former miners, via a ‘top-up’ compensation trust fund founded by seven mining employers.

AngloGold Ashanti CEO Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan said, without admission of liability, they would make the payment to the trust fund, to be named Q(h)ukeka, within two weeks of the account being set up.

The claimants came from the Eastern Cape, Lesotho, and Free State, and have an average age of 61.

The group compensation follows a class action against Anglo American and AngloGold by the a group of gold miners suffering from silicosis. It paves the way for a broader settlement on Anglo mines.

Four years ago, 4400 claimants sued the employers for dust-related lung diseases. Some other occupational health class actions are still in progress.

Seven mining employers have set up the legacy fund to make a top-up payment to silicosis claimants, over and above the statutory compensation through the compulsory compensation insurance.

The seven mining houses in the legacy fund, are Anglo American, Anglo Gold Ashanti, African Rainbow Minerals, DRDGold, Goldfields, Sibanye, and Harmony.

The employers said they have “recognised that the actual levels of compensation provided to miners with silicosis are inadequate… current and future employees should fall under that better compensation fund.” They did not admit liability, and are defending claims against them.

Civic group welcomes occupational health compensation

The SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) welcomed the agreement to pay R500m compensation to former gold miners, and relatives of deceased miners.

Sanco spokesman Jabu Mahlangu said; “Urgent intervention is required to speed up resolution of outstanding claims of dependents of thousands of miners who contracted silicosis during blasting and drilling,” he said.

The civic organisation alleges that some mines have allowed miners to continue working up to 15 years after they were diagnosed with silicosis.

“Much more still needs to be done to protect the current workforce against occupational diseases in mining,” Mahlangu said.

Sanco is not a labour union, but says it “represents ordinary people, where they live, in accessing services in government departments and parastatals.”

Employers “failed to protect workers”

Four years ago, attorney Richard Spoor had filed a class action for 17 000 ex gold miners suffering silicosis, against 30 gold mines.

The action alleges that the employers failed to take adequate measures to protect the workers from dust exposure.

Three years ago, the High Court in Johannesburg ruled that all pending lawsuits against gold mining companies regarding silicosis may be consolidated into one action. The High Court started to hear the class certification motion last year.

Some years ago, the SA government and state had prioritised awareness, prevention, treatment, and services relevant to silica dust exposure in mining, agriculture, and other sectors outside mining.

Sources; AngloGold Ashante. Business and Human Righs Resource Centre /Richard Spoor. Sanco.