Home » Limpopo Coal Miners Seek Justice for Lung Diseases in Landmark Case 

Limpopo Coal Miners Seek Justice for Lung Diseases in Landmark Case 

The former workers allege that the company failed to provide adequate protective equipment or compensation for their health problems

by Motoni Olodun

A group of former coal miners from Limpopo province in South Africa have launched a class action lawsuit against Exxaro Group, one of the largest coal mining companies in the country. They claim that they have contracted serious lung diseases, such as pneumoconiosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), due to exposure to coal dust at the Tshikondeni mine, which closed in 2014. They allege that the company failed to provide adequate protective equipment or compensation for their health problems.

The class action, which is being represented by Richard Spoor Inc. attorneys, is the third of its kind against coal mining companies in South Africa. The first two were against South32 Group and Anglo American, both of which have agreed to settle with the affected miners. The cases have drawn attention to the plight of thousands of coal miners who have suffered from lung diseases, also known as “black lung disease”, which are preventable and incurable.

According to the World Health Organization, coal mine dust exposure is a major occupational health hazard that can cause various respiratory diseases, such as pneumoconiosis, COPD, asthma, and lung cancer. Pneumoconiosis is a progressive and irreversible condition that causes scarring and inflammation of the lung tissue, leading to breathing difficulties and reduced lung function. COPD is a chronic condition that causes airflow obstruction and inflammation of the airways, resulting in coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

The former miners, who are between the ages of 40 and 60+, say that they are struggling to survive and find employment due to their deteriorating health. They also say that they have not received any medical assistance or information from the mine about their conditions. Some of them have died since the class action process began, leaving behind their families in poverty and despair.

The lawyers of the class action say that they have conducted a comprehensive investigation into the working conditions at the Tshikondeni mine, interviewing the miners and reviewing their medical records. They say that they have found evidence of excessive dust levels and inadequate dust control measures at the mine, as well as negligence and breach of duty by the company. They are seeking damages for the miners and their dependents, as well as an apology and recognition of their suffering.

Exxaro Group has not yet responded to the allegations or the lawsuit. The company is one of the leading coal producers in South Africa, supplying coal to domestic and international markets, as well as to state-owned power utility Eskom. The company has stated on its website that it is committed to ensuring the health and safety of its employees and contractors and that it complies with all relevant laws and regulations.

The class action is expected to be a landmark case that will set a precedent for other coal miners who have been affected by lung diseases. It will also raise awareness of the human and environmental costs of coal mining, which is a major source of energy and emissions in South Africa. The case will also highlight the need for better protection and compensation for the workers who have contributed to the country’s economy and development, but have been used, abused, and discarded by the mining industry.

The former miners and their families hope that the case will bring them justice and dignity, as well as some relief and support for their health and livelihoods. They also hope that their case will inspire other miners to speak up and seek help for their conditions and that it will prevent future generations from suffering the same fate.

Source: Daily Maverick

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