As­bestos rav­ages min­ers

Lesotho Times - - News - ‘Man­toetse Maama

The Minework­ers Devel­op­ment Agency (MDA) has re­vealed that 62 per­cent of Le­sotho cit­i­zens who worked in South African as­bestos mines be­fore their clo­sure in 2010 have died due to mesothe­lioma — a rare form of can­cer caused by ex­po­sure to the min­eral.

MDA project co­or­di­na­tor, Lithakong Ralenkoane, on Tues­day told the Le­sotho Times: “The said Le­sotho cit­i­zens died be­cause un­for­tu­nately, the dis­ease is not cur­able.

“Af­ter re­search re­vealed that as­bestos is haz­ardous to health and is known to cause a type of can­cer known as mesothe­lioma, the mines that were mostly lo­cated in Ku­ru­man in the North­ern Cape, were sub­se­quently shut down. how­ever, this clo­sure did not only take place in South Africa but also other parts of the world.

“The last of th­ese South African mines were closed in 2010, and some South African lawyers formed the As­bestos Re­lief Trust, which was go­ing to help the af­fected min­ers get com­pen­sa­tion. “The lawyers also sought to fa­cil­i­tate the testing of the ex-min­ers and fur­ther asked us, the MDA, to help them find th­ese for­mer min­ers. “So since 2008, we have been look­ing for those who had been em­ployed in those mines be­tween 1952 and 2010 when, like I said, the last of the mines was closed. We found out that about 549 Ba­sotho worked in those mines be­tween this pe­riod, and only 531 have come for screen­ing, and 120 were found to have been af­fected by as­bestos-re­lated dis­eases (ARD).

“The af­fected peo­ple were paid ac­cord­ing to the de­gree of their ill­ness, and around M5mil­lion in to­tal was given out by the mines as com­pen­sa­tion. The high­est com­pen­sa­tion was M198, 000, while the low­est was M 5000, and th­ese were once-off pay­ments.”

Mr Ralenkoane also said the MDA had since re­alised that 140 of the ex-min­ers were left out of the screen­ing and com­pen­sa­tion ex­er­cise.

“Out of this fig­ure, 40 were called for screen­ing on Satur­day in Th­es­tane. Their sam­ples will be sent to South Africa for testing and hope­fully, the re­main­der will be screened as well. “And as men­tioned ear­lier, our re­search has re­vealed that about 62 per­cent of peo­ple who worked in those mines died due to ARD, and most of those still alive are now very old and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with them has be­come a prob­lem. “Some don’t have cell-phones and de­pend on their chil­dren’s most of whom don’t stay with them, and take time to re­lay mes­sages to them.

“Oth­ers sim­ply for­get about the date and they end up miss­ing the screen­ing. Again, some doc­tors mis­take the dis­ease with TB and if one is di­ag­nosed with TB, he won’t be com­pen­sated. We ap­peal to fam­i­lies with rel­a­tives who used to work in those mines but are now dead, to still seek post-mortems and get com­pen­sa­tion if the cause of death was as­bestos-re­lated.”

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