Jus­tice for sick coal min­ers

Saturday Star - - NEWS -

FIRST his law firm went af­ter as­bestos firms for caus­ing as­bestos-re­lated ill­nesses in work­ers, then it tack­led the gold in­dus­try. Now Richard Spoor and his team of lawyers have set their sights on the coal in­dus­try.

This week, in an epic clas­s­ac­tion law­suit span­ning 14 years, Spoor to­gether with a group of law firms clinched an his­toric R5 bil­lion class-ac­tion set­tle­ment for thou­sands of ail­ing for­mer minework­ers in the gold sec­tor, suf­fer­ing from sil­i­co­sis and TB.

On Fri­day, the SA Catholic Bish­ops Con­fer­ence (SACBC) Jus­tice and Peace Com­mis­sion and Richard Spoor At­tor­neys re­vealed that coal min­ers are next in line for com­pen­sa­tion claims.

“We have al­ready made a start with Sa­sol and we have Exarro next in our sights,” says Spoor.

“The bat­tle to se­cure jus­tice for sick min­ers in South Africa is not over,” says Bishop Gabuza, chair­per­son of the SACBC Jus­tice and Peace Com­mis­sion.

“We’re work­ing with Richard Spoor Inc At­tor­neys to de­mand com­pen­sa­tion from coal mines on be­half of for­mer minework­ers who con­tracted deadly lung dis­eases in the coal mines.”

Gabuza said coal min­ing com­pa­nies “should con­sider (an) out-of-court set­tle­ment and com­pen­sa­tion lev­els that are suf­fi­cient to re­store dig­nity to for­mer work­ers”.

The SACBC in­tends to set up a mech­a­nism in re­mote ru­ral ar­eas in the Free State and East­ern Cape to en­sure that thou­sands of sick min­ers ac­cess 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,” Gabuza said, adding that the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s pres­ence in re­mote ar­eas “can 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 says.

“We need to ex­plore more and bet­ter mech­a­nisms. Other than com­pen­sa­tion, we also need to put em­pha­sis on pre­ven­tion.” – Sheree Bega

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