AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - "Justice and Peace" launches collective action in favor of miners affected by diseases linked to coal extraction

Tuesday, 22 August 2023 work   justice   bishops   diseases  

Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - "Very often workers do not have the means to seek legal recourse from large companies which have huge resources at their disposal", says Cardinal-elect Stephen Brislin, Archbishop of Cape Town, in explaining why the Commission for Justice and Peace of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC), has filed a lawsuit against some mining companies.
The appeal filed at South Africa's High Court, Gauteng Local Division, aims to compensate miners who have contracted lung disease due to coal dust in the form of pneumoconiosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In addition to the workers still in service, the lawsuit is being pursued for the benefit of those who have retired or resigned and the families of miners who died of illnesses caused by coal dust. "Very often ex-mine workers are no longer members of trade unions and, therefore, lack the means and capacity to seek legal recourse from large companies which are responsible for their lung diseases", underlines the Archbishop of Cape Town. "It is thus incumbent on the Church to give assistance where it can so that the rights of the vulnerable are respected and so that they can access compensation that is legally due to them. Many companies are amenable to settling such cases, but in some instances court action is necessary". "Coal mine dust can cause miners to develop lung diseases including pneumoconiosis and COPD.
Despite knowing the risks to coal miners, members of the coal mining industry failed to provide their workers with adequate training, equipment, and a safe working environment", says the class action which, if upheld, could pave the way for other lawsuits by miners affected by coal-related illnesses.
Coal is a mainstay of South Africa's economy, which employs nearly 100,000 people and accounts for 80% of electricity production. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 22/8/2023)