Fund managing mineworkers' R5bn silicosis settlement starts paying out

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The fund set up for former mineworkers who contracted silicosis makes its first payment claims.
The fund set up for former mineworkers who contracted silicosis makes its first payment claims.
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  • The Trust was formed after a R5 billion-settlement was reached between gold mining firms and litigants.
  • Eligible claimants are former mineworkers, and families of deceased workers who died from silicosis.
  • The Trust managing the funds has set up 61 lodgement centres in five countries.

The fund that is managing the compensation payment of former gold mineworkers who contracted silicosis due to exposure to underground dust has paid more than 100 claimants since December.

The Tshiamiso Trust, which manages the distribution of the court-approved R5 billion class action settlement by mining companies to former mineworkers who contracted the lung illness, said it has to date paid out a total of R9 million to claimants, with payments ranging from R25 000 to R250 000.

Eligible claimants are former mineworkers, and families of deceased workers who died from silicosis.

In 2018, a settlement was reached between a group of the country's gold mining firms and former workers, following a historic litigation suit. The trust said the delay in processing the claims was caused by "huge logistical and organisational cross-border infrastructure that the trust has had to establish since its establishment in February 2020" - which has been further complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The trust has established 61 lodgement centres in five countries - Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique - as well as medical centres for carrying out medical benefit examinations for claimants. 

It said not all claims will be considered as the trust benefits only apply to 82 gold mines owned or managed by six mining companies: African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye-Stillwater.

The other common cause for rejection of claims was because medical records submitted showed conditions found by Tshiamiso's medical certification panels not to be compensable.

Such claimants may be eligible for claims under the government's Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases. 

Silicosis is caused by silica dust, which cannot be seen by the human eye and is prevalent in many industries, including gold mining. It reduces the elasticity of lungs, causing chest pains and breathing problems as well as increasing the prevalence of TB, an airborne disease, according to the Occupational Lung Disease Working Group.

The Trust's CEO, Daniel Kotton, said they undertake to continue to process the claims as "rapidly as is humanly possible" for deserving gold mineworkers or their dependants.

The settlement was reached on behalf of thousands of mineworkers affected people who contracted silicosis or pulmonary tuberculosis during or after being employed as gold miners from March 1965.

Gold mines normally drew labour from far flung villages and outside the country and the wide reach of the sector might complicate the claiming process, and a large number of possible beneficiaries may have died.

As at 31 July 2021, 39 608 claims had been lodged since the process opened in February, according to the Trust.

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