Botswana mineworkers, who work or have worked at some of South Africa’s leading gold mine companies, are suing their employers for contracting silicosis occupational lung disease. In mounting the legal challenge, they have been joined by the families of those who have died.
The Botswana Centre for Human Rights (Ditshwanelo), together with Richard Spoor Inc Attorneys, are suing┬á┬áSouth African gold mining companies on behalf of┬á┬áformer and present Botswana gold mineworkers who have developed or died of silicosis before the Johannesburg High Court.
The companies being sued include the world’s leading gold producers, Goldfields and AngloGold Ashanti located about one hour’s drive west of Johannesburg.
The court date has still to be announced as the lawyers acting for the miners are still piecing together the necessary paperwork.
According to Ditshwanelo, the court case will be defended by the mining companies and will follow the normal court proceedings and be adjudicated by the court.
┬á“We are confident that the case bears merit and that it will succeed, but we do not yet know what the outcome of the litigation will be. In the event that the case is ultimately successful, the court may order that the gold mining companies provide some form of relief┬áfor their former employees who have developed silicosis as a result of working underground in the gold mines,” said Andrew Matayataya of┬á┬áDitshwanelo.
The human rights organization, however, at this stage, does not know what form such relief may take.
“There are many former gold mineworkers throughout Southern Africa who are potentially affected by the litigation and, due to the fact that there is no precedent for litigation on such a large scale in South Africa, it may take a few years for the case to reach a conclusion.┬á The mining companies whom we hope will compensate the miners are Harmony, Goldfields, AngloGold Ashanti and their subsidiary mine-owning companies,” said Matayataya.
Available statistics from the Employment Bureau of Africa (TEBA) ÔÇô a recruiting agency for mining houses in South Africa – indicate that there are some 3000 Batswana currently working in South African platinum and gold mines.
Ditshwanelo has begun its work by choosing Moshupa and its surrounding areas to identify and help former miners who have died of silicosis or are afflicted by the lung disease in the form of notice adverts in the government media calling relatives of victims to come forward with proof that their next of kin died of the disease.
The centre has said that the registration of miners will continue for the next 10 months and cover different parts of Botswana.
“Before our current visit to Moshupa in August 2012,┬áwe registered a great number of potential candidates in Molepolole in July 2012. After Moshupa, we will go to Ramotswa. We intend to approach other communities, resources permitting,’ said Matayataya.