ACTSA – Action for Southern Africa Sunday, May 24, 2015

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Justice for South African Gold Miners
Under apartheid, mining was South Africa's biggest industry. Hundreds of thousands of miners worked underground in appalling conditions, digging for gold. Production levels were high, and profits were prioritised over workers’ safety. Black miners undertook the dustiest jobs, and protective measures such as respirators and on-site showers were often not provided. Most were migrant workers from rural areas, housed in poor and overcrowded single sex hostels.

The Demand                                                                  
ACTSA supports the call of National Union of Mineworkers South Africa, the union many of the miners would have belonged to, and others for decent compensation and healthcare for all those suffering from silicosis and their families. The compensation and health care to be paid for by the mining companies that profited from South Africa’s gold. As well as ACTSA, these demands are supported by British trade unions and other British based groups and networks, such as War on Want, Amnesty International UK and the London Mining Network.

Tens of thousands of former mineworkers are suffering from silicosis.

Please donate £20 or as much as you can afford and support ACTSA’s campaign for mining companies to provide decent compensation and health care for silicosis sufferers.

What is silicosis?
Silicosis is a lung disease caused by prolonged exposure to silica dust in mines. It decreases lung capacity, making it difficult to breathe and massively increases the risk of TB. The combination of the two can be fatal. It is estimated that thousands of South African gold miners are suffering from silicosis. Silicosis can take 10 – 20 years to develop, and thousands of workers who have left the mines are now suffering the effects of their work, while Anglo American South Africa and other mining companies enjoy the profits.
Do they receive treatment?

Currently there is no cure or specific treatment for silicosis.  Medical care is essential for diagnosis and to treat associated diseases such as TB, particularly as South Africa has proportionally the highest number of TB cases in the world. Yet, for many miners affected, access to screening and medical facilities are very limited or non existent in the rural areas where many ex miners live. Without diagnosis, they cannot receive compensation.

The dangers of silicosis have been known for over a century. Current compensation is limited and does not cover pain and suffering. Any compensation is based on their pay and black miners were paid the lowest wages.

Legal Action                                                                
There are currently three legal actions being taken in London and South Africa on behalf of those suffering from silicosis, against the companies involved in gold mining in the past. This includes a class action in London on behalf of more than 3,500 miners/ex miners against Anglo American South Africa; in Johannesburg also against Anglo American South Africa a test case of 18 silicosis sufferers, four of whom have died since the case was started, and a class action in Johannesburg on behalf of approx. 17,000 ex miners against 30 mining companies including Anglo American South Africa, Harmony Gold, Anglogold Ashanti and Goldfields. 
                                                                                                         ACTSA is not party to any legal action.  The legal actions put a spotlight on the issue and if successful will lead to increased compensation. ACTSA is pushing the moral case. The ex miners are ill because of silicosis caused by their working conditions. They and their families need improved compensation and health care now and it is those companies that were involved in gold mining who should provide this.

Why Anglo American?                                                        
The demand is for adequate compensation from all the mining companies involved in gold mining whose workers have developed silicosis. Legal action is being taken in London and Johannesburg against Anglo American South Africa and one of these actions includes other mining companies.                                                                                         
Anglo American South Africa (AASA) was the largest gold miner in South Africa throughout the 20th century making millions in profits from apartheid gold. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Anglo American plc which is listed on the London Stock Exchange. Anglo American claims that “we do not accept that it is necessary for people to be made ill whilst working for us.”

ACTSA wants Anglo American to live up to its Corporate Social Responsibility statements and take urgent steps to provide decent compensation and medical services for the thousands of ex gold miners who are now suffering from silicosis. We urge Anglo American to provide leadership and do what is right.

"Real People. Real Mining" photo exhibition available
“Real People. Real Mining” is a photo exhibition by award-winning photographer Hein du Plessis. It displays striking images of black South African ex gold miners suffering with silicosis. The exhibition has 21 panels of standard poster size but could be reduced depending on space available. If you are interested in hosting the exhibition please contact ACTSA.

If you want more info on Justice for Miners email: 
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Action for Southern Africa - Rights, Justice, Solidarity   Tel:(0)207 1860 750   Twitter | Facebook  Headland House 308-312 Grays Inn Road London WC1X 8DP