Asbestos ravages miners
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.”