Mining industry might be worth billions but it yields immeasurable pain

07 February 2017 - 16:03 By Farren Collins
Mine dumps in Riverlea that are affecting the community in the area, south of Johannesburg.
Mine dumps in Riverlea that are affecting the community in the area, south of Johannesburg.
Image: LAUREN MULLIGAN

Nomziwonde Jamela was a newlywed when her husband‚ Ntshontsholakhe‚ left the Eastern Cape to work on the mines. He returned home for good more than 30 years later - with an incurable lung disease.

As industry heavyweights discussed the future of mining in Africa at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town‚ in the same city mineworkers and their families spoke out about the terrible effects of silicosis.

NGO Sonke Gender Justice hosted a briefing on Tuesday where mineworkers‚ their wives and children gave moving firsthand accounts of the impact of the occupational lung disease‚ which thousands of South African mine workers suffer from.

Meanwhile just down the road‚ over 7‚000 delegates representing more than 2‚100 companies met at the Cape Town International Convention Centre for a four-day conference to discuss the “capitalisation and development of mining interests in Africa” - according to the events website.

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Jamela said on Tuesday her husband receives no benefits from the mining company and they are forced to live off his monthly disability grant.

“My husband left home at 18 and returned home sick at the age of 49‚” Jamela said.

“He gave his life to the mines [and then] he was released because he was ill‚ and sent home to die.”

Alice Magala‚ 24‚ could not hold back her tears as she recounted how her father suffered before succumbing to the silicosis and tuberculosis he got from working in a gold mine.

Magala implored the mining company he worked for to take responsibility for their role in her father’s death‚ and said mining companies should compensate the families of mineworkers affected by silicosis and TB.

Last year the South Gauteng High Court handed down a judgment in favour of mineworkers in the certification proceeding for a class action. The mineworkers sought certification of a class action aimed at seeking accountability from 32 gold mining houses for their failure to prevent and treat silicosis.

In September the Supreme Court of Appeal granted the mining companies leave to appeal the certification‚ but a date for the hearing had not been set.

Policy and Development Fellow at Sonke‚ Thabang Pooe‚ said that when the case resumed the court would hear arguments on both the certification of the class action‚ as well as the transmissibility of damages to allow for claim to be given over to beneficiaries should the person die.

“We’re hoping for a date in the middle of the year‚ somewhere between June or July‚” Pooe said.

“In terms of the settlement‚ there are close negotiations [but] there hasn’t been a settlement that has been reached with the mining companies.”

The High Court estimated that there could be 500‚000 beneficiaries to the litigation‚ which Pooe estimated to be a payment of around R40-billion.

-TMG Digital/TimesLIVE

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