Justice for sick coal miners
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