THE COMPENSATION THAT COULD BECOME AVAILABLE TO THOUSANDS OF MINE WORKERS ONCE CONFLICTING LEGISLATION IS REVIEWED
Thousands of mine workers who left without payouts because of the country’s fragmented compensation laws could this year have access to at least R1.5 billion, which could be paid out once two pieces of conflicting legislation are reviewed. David Msiza, acting director-general for the department of mineral resources, said that talks between mining companies and the departments of labour, health and mineral resources on the review of the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act, and the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, would lead to formalised compensation for mine workers.
The reform of compensation policies has been a thorny issue since the early 1990s and previous attempts to merge the policies have failed.
At least 700 000 mine workers have claimed compensation under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, but problems, including a lack of capacity, rejection by the banks and incomplete information supplied by the claimants, have hamstrung the compensation process.
“Regrettably, because of past exposure to harmful substances, mine workers contracted occupational diseases. The reform will help expedite payments where there is a backlog in payouts. This is the beginning of a long process that will hopefully be resolved soon,” said Msiza.
Government wants an agreement on reformed compensation policies by all parties by December.
Changes are expected to transform mine workers’ lives as their compensation will be greater when they are paid out for work-related lung and heart diseases, including tuberculosis and silicosis.
The department of mineral resources has set up onestop service centres in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, while another is planned for the Northern Cape to help former mine workers from countries including Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Botswana access the compensation.
The main focus for the department, however, is the prevention of occupational diseases, injuries and death.
“Our major objective is ensuring zero harm to workers. We’re focused on compensation reform and prioritising payments, but we are also looking at the preventative aspects of occupational health and safety. We’re not there yet, but we want to improve,” said Msiza.
More than 104 000 former mine workers are entitled to compensation after contracting silicosis asbestosis, tuberculosis, chronic obstructive airways disease, progressive systematic sclerosis and lung cancer.
The National Union of Mineworkers said it was excited about government’s target to complete the review process by the end of the year.
Thousands of mine workers suffer from occupational diseases