JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The Chamber of Mines (CoM) said on Friday that it had been actively working in tripartite forums to align and reform the statutory framework for occupational lung disease compensation.
The CoM, which responded to a Constitutional Court judgment on the matter, stated that it was seeking to achieve the reform in a manner that eliminated anomalies in the application of the legislation, but did not threaten the viability of the industry and the jobs of the people employed in it.
This comes after the Constitutional Court on Thursday ruled in favour of a former AngloGold Ashanti worker in an occupational health disease case which could opened the door to a litany of legal claims against the mining industry.
The ruling has enabled mine workers to sue for health damages under common law.
Thembekile Mankayi, who sustained a lung disease while he worked at AngloGold Ashanti between 1979 and 1995, lodged a civil claim of more than R2,6-million, after he had been compensated through the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODIMWA).
The court had to decide on whether miners, who had been compensated under the ODIMWA, could claim compensation from their employers, or whether a section of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act precluded common law claims.
The CoM did not want to comment on the ruling, as the matter directly concerned AngloGold Ashanti.
However, it stated that it had been working with its members on a number of initiatives to tackle occupational health and safety challenges related to former mineworkers, as well as current mine employees.
These initiatives included working with the Department of Health and the National Union for Mineworkers on a project to improve the access of former mineworkers to the benefits provided for by the ODIMWA and to health care treatment.
It also aimed to improve the operation of the statutory compensation fund, which involves community economic development programmes in areas where former mineworkers reside.
The members of the CoM were also in the process of rolling out an industry-wide initiative aimed at improving the management of dust underground so as to eliminate future incidences of lung disease among current employees.
A campaign for improving technology to reduce noise levels so that the chances of noise-induced hearing loss are minimised were also in the pipeline, as well as methods to reduce harm to people from falls of ground and transport and machinery.