Inter-Ministerial Committee on payment of ex-mineworkers for occupational lung diseases

The highest number of payments in a single month since the commencement of tracking and tracing project to compensate ex-mineworkers for occupational lung diseases

A record number of 1 203 payments were made in March 2018 to compensate ex-mineworkers for occupational lung diseases, amounting to R18.2 million. This represents the highest number of payments in a month since the commencement of the tracking and tracing process. This achievement would not have been possible without the support and cooperation from industry stakeholders and ex-mineworkers.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on the Special Presidential Package for the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities and Labour-Sending Areas was established in 2012, in accordance with the 2012 Social Accord signed by organised labour, business and government.

The IMC provides cross departmental support and coordination across the sector departments and spheres of government to ensure that the sustainable development objectives of South Africa's mineral policy are achieved to steer the mining industry towards a sustainable development trajectory.

The IMC addresses socio-economic challenges in mining towns and in labour-sending areas. Focusing on the four key outcomes, namely: (a) Integrated and sustainable human settlements; (b) Improved socio-economic conditions; (c) Improved working conditions of mineworkers and improving mine community health (d) Decent living conditions for mineworkers and meaningful contribution to the development trajectory of mining towns and labour-sending areas.

Mineworkers operate under challenging working conditions, which exposes them to numerous occupational diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), silicosis, pneumoconiosis diseases and injuries with inadequate compensation given, especially to ex-mineworkers. These diseases have created unhealthy conditions in mining communities and labour-sending areas where people are born, grow, work, live and age, thus influencing a wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of their daily lives.

Following a directive from the IMC, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) hosted a workshop on 24 June 2016 that brought together the Financial Services Board; representatives of pension and provident funds; Chamber of Mines and trade unions; officials from National Treasury; DoH Compensation Fund; Department of Labour's (DoL) Unemployment Insurance Fund; Department of Social Development; South African Social Security Agency; Government Pensions Administration Agency; Rand Mutual Assurance and TEBA, including social partners such as the World Bank.

This was a multi-stakeholder coordinated effort to pay out unpaid financial compensation to ex-mineworkers as a step towards alleviating poverty and restoring the dignity of our people who contributed their working lives to build the South African economy.

Under the instruction of the October 2016 IMC, the South African Compensation Commissioner for Occupational Diseases negotiated a deal for the Chamber of Mines to purchase all the records of service from TEBA on behalf of ex-mineworkers.

There is therefore no need for ex-mineworkers to purchase their records in order to apply for compensation. The IMC also requested all affected parties to work on a strategy to ensure all financial benefits are paid out to ex-mineworkers, and that services and products for compensation for mine occupational diseases and injuries are brought closer to the intended beneficiaries and made more accessible.

The World Bank, Department for International Development, Chamber of Mines and gold mining companies provided funding to assist the Department of Health (DoH) with tracing and tracking of ex-mineworkers. The DoH is running a process to pay 100 000 ex-mineworkers unpaid claims amounting to R1.5 billion in compensation benefits. The DoH works with the gold mining companies to make it easier to track and trace in order to pay ex-mineworkers their financial compensation for occupational diseases as a result of working in the mines.

The Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources, Mr Godfrey Oliphant, has undertaken various outreach and awareness campaigns that have assisted with tracking-and-tracing activities and organising ex-mineworkers to understand the formal process of applying for the compensation for occupational diseases that is rightfully due to them.

From April 2015 to March 2016, some 1 766 claimants were paid a total of R79 million, with the bulk of payments going to ex-mineworkers from labour-sending areas within South Africa. From April 2017 to March 2018, some 10 409 claimants were paid R254 million, representing an increase of about 500% in claimants paid and 200% increase in monies paid. Five years ago, an average of 2 000 claimants were paid. About R110 million went to 4 912 claimants in neighbouring countries. There were 1 203 payments for the month of March 2018 amounting to R18.2 million. This represents the highest number of payments in a month since the commencement of the tracking and tracing process.

Potential claimants or their beneficiaries can call: 080 1000 240 to check the status of their claims or need for a medical assessment. Medical assessments are provided in decentralised One-Stop Service Centres such as those in provincial hospitals in Mthatha (Eastern Cape), Carletonville (Gauteng), Burgersfort (near Limpopo and Mpumalanga) and Kuruman (Northern Cape), and in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland.

Mobile clinics have also been used successfully in selected districts in South Africa and neighbouring countries. Fifteen medical doctors have been seconded by the mining companies for the Certification Committees at the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases. A web-based link to the DoH is available � � and provides information on accessing medical services and claims.

There is a need to enhance the database of the DoH of ex-mineworkers, reach all controlled mines and works, ensure a rights-based culture for current mineworkers and provide them with the information about their benefits. Continued prevention interventions such as dust control and TB interventions in the mines will go a long way in creating a better life for mineworkers and their families.

The DoH is also working with the Global Fund (TB in the mining sector project), provincial DoHs, neighbouring country governments, DPME, Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), DoL, Chamber of Mines and gold mining companies, trade unions and ex-mineworker associations in the sector, social protection funds and the Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) and Ubank, to further improve and fast-track access to unclaimed social protection funds and financial services.

Through the coordination and support from the IMC chaired by the Minister in The Presidency, DoH, DMR and DoL is continuing work to track and trace claimants of unpaid financial compensation to ex-mineworkers. The DoH, together with the DoL and DMR's Directorate: Mine Health and Safety, are working towards aligning the industry's occupational health and safety policies, and the required legislative changes, to facilitate access to compensation and other benefits towards an enhanced social protection system. This will also include the reorganisation of the compensation system and access to benefits for former and current mineworkers.

On 19 and 20 May 2016, a summit took place to look into integrating the compensation systems on occupational health and safety, with particular reference to the two areas of legislation, the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act, 1973 (Act 78 of 1973), as amended, and the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 1993 (Act 130 of 1993). The summit, which identified the need to develop a uniformed compensation system, brought together about 230 participants from neighbouring countries, government, employers, trade unions and development partners. The steering committee and task teams have continued their work post the summit.

The IMC has also urged for the development and enforcement of mechanisms to prevent the increase in mine related occupational diseases and injuries. The Department of Mineral Resources is employing mine accident and occupational diseases prevention mechanisms through improved mine inspections, audits, investigations and monitoring of occupational exposure levels.

The DMR has given additional focus on enforcement and inspections through 40 regional medical inspectors, analysis of annual medical reports from the mines' provision of standards on workplace exposures, implementing inspection and audit tools for occupational health services, promotion of occupational health in the mining industry and engaging in reviewing research relevant to occupational medicine in the mining industry. In addition, the DMR has employed the following measures:

Efforts to ensure the reduction in falls of ground accidents by 20% annually;

Ensuring reduction in rock-falls accidents by 20% annually;

Actively promoting awareness activities on the National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and TB;

Preventing personal over-exposure to silica dust; and

Promoting active linkage of dust exposure to medical surveillance.

We thank all mining industry stakeholders for playing their part in the implementation of the Special Presidential Package for the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities and Labour-Sending Areas, with particular reference to improving mine health and safety, in mining communities and labour-sending areas and all the collective efforts made in tracking and tracing ex-mineworkers who are eligible to receive financial compensation for having contracted occupational lung diseases.

Source: Government of South Africa