CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND SPOOR ATTORNEY SAY COAL MINERS NEXT ON LINE FOR COMPENSATION
The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) Justice and Peace Commission and Richard Spoor Attorneys say coal miners are the next in line to seek compensation for occupational lung diseases.
“The battle to secure justice for sick miners in South Africa is not over. We are working with Richard Spoor Attorneys to demand compensation from coal mines on behalf of former mineworkers who contracted deadly lung diseases in the coal mines,” SACBC Justice and Peace Commission chairperson Bishop Gabuza said on Friday.
This follows after attorney Richard Spoor on Thursday revealed that such legal action is being pursued on a company-by-company basis, including Sasol and Exxaro Resources.
Gabuza on Friday appealed to coal mining companies “to emulate the example of gold mining companies” by considering “out-of-court settlements and compensation levels that are sufficient to restore dignity to former workers.”
The settlement agreement is a result of three years of extensive negotiations between representative attorneys and the Occupational Lung Diseases Working Group, which represents African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye-Stillwater.
Pan African Resources, which only recently joined the litigation process, is still considering whether it should sign the agreement.
The SACBC Justice and Peace Commission intends to set up a mechanism in remote rural areas in the Free State and Eastern Cape to ensure thousands of sick miners have access to and benefit from the trust fund within its 12-year lifespan.
“We shall soon start discussions with the mines, the Department of Health and the medical bureau for occupational diseases around such a mechanism. As a church, we have a massive footprint in remote rural areas in Free State and Eastern Cape,” Bishop Gabuza commented.
He further added that the SACBC’s presence in these remote rural areas could be a vital asset for tracking and assisting a massive number of potential claimants.
The State compensation system, which is governed by the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act, has not been sufficient and effective enough in dealing with such a legacy, he lamented.
“We need to explore more and better mechanisms. Other than compensation, we also need to put emphasis on prevention.”
“Given the massive number of mines in the country, the current inspectorate is under-staffed and under-resourced. We need to strengthen the inspectorate so that it is more effective in enforcing safety and health standards in the mining sector.