Mining chamber ‘working on legal inconsistencies’

2011-03-04 09:02

The Chamber of Mines has been working to get rid of inconsistencies in the law affecting mineworkers suffering from occupational lung disease, it said today in response to a Constitutional Court judgment on the matter.

“The chamber has been actively working in tripartite forums on the alignment and reform of the statutory framework for compensation in respect of occupational lung disease,” it said in a statement.

It was “seeking to achieve this in a manner that eliminates anomalies in the application of the legislation, but does not threaten the viability of the industry and the jobs of the people employed in it”.

The chamber would not comment directly on the Constitutional Court decision to grant ex-mineworker Thembekile Mankayi leave to appeal against a decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

Mankayi died of a lung disease last Friday.

The SCA had upheld a June 2008 Johannesburg High Court decision that employees who qualified for benefits in respect of the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act could not, in addition, lodge civil claims against their employers in respect of their relevant conditions.

“As this matter directly concerns AngloGold Ashanti, the Chamber of Mines is not in a position to comment.”

The Chamber and its members were working on various initiatives to address occupational health and safety issues for former and current mine employees.

These included working with the department of health and National Union of Mineworkers on a project to improve former mineworkers’ access to the benefits provided for by the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act and to health care if they suffered from occupational lung disease.

The Chamber said it was rolling out an industry wide initiative to improve the management of dust underground to try and eliminate future incidences of occupational lung disease and to improve technology to reduce noise levels to prevent hearing loss.

Ex-mineworker Mankayi had claimed more than R2.6 million from AngloGold Ashanti in health damages in terms of the common law.

He worked for the company as a miner from 1979 to 1995.

During his work underground he was exposed to harmful dusts and gases which, according to him, caused serious lung and air tract diseases.

Mankayi’s work was classified as risk work and he was awarded compensation – R16 320 – in terms of a mining law, the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act.

When he sued for damages in the high court under common law, the mining company claimed he was prohibited from suing an employer for common law damages arising from disease resulting in the employee’s death or disablement in terms of the Compensation for Occupation Injuries and Diseases Act.

Mankayi contended he did not receive compensation in terms of the compensation law, but in terms of the mining law and that he should therefore also be able to sue in terms of the Compensation for Occupation Injuries and Diseases Act.

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