CAPE TOWN Feb 8 South Africa's gold industry,
which faces a class action suit from miners who contracted the
fatal lung disease silicosis, said on Wednesday the government
had 3.7 billion rand ($275 million) in a fund available for
compensation to sufferers.
"There is a compensation fund that has about 3.7 billion
rand in it," said Graham Briggs, a former mining executive who
chairs an industry working group on occupational lung diseases.
He said that amount should be enough to compensate all the
silicosis sufferers who used to work in mines. But Briggs told
journalists at a mining conference that no compensation had been
paid out yet from the fund for reasons which remain unclear.
Briggs said the fund was with the department of health and
was the product of contributions paid over the years by mining
companies, which put in around 8 rand for each shift a miner
worked. Officials at the department of health were not
immediately available for comment.
Silicosis is an incurable disease caused by inhaling silica
dust from gold-bearing rocks. It causes shortness of breath, a
persistent cough and chest pains, and also makes people highly
susceptible to tuberculosis.
Many of those affected are migrant labourers from
neighbouring countries such as Lesotho.
A court last May ruled that class action suits for up to
half a million miners who contracted the disease could go ahead.
Companies have since said they would appeal that decision,
setting the stage for protracted legal wrangling.
Briggs, a former chief executive of Harmony Gold,
said the industry was "getting closer to a solution" and hoped
an out-of-court settlement could be reached with the claimants
The working group on occupational lung diseases was formed
by Africa's top gold producer AngloGold Ashanti, Gold
Fields, Harmony, Sibanye Gold and African
Rainbow Minerals, as well as Anglo American
which used to mine gold.
($1 = 13.3925 rand)
(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Adrian Croft)