Gold miner AngloGold Ashanti (ANG) said Thursday that it has noted the decision of the Constitutional Court to grant Thembekile Mankayi leave to appeal against the decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal which itself upheld the June 2008 Johannesburg High Court decision that employees who qualify for benefits in respect of the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODMWA) may not, in addition, lodge civil claims against their employers in respect of their relevant conditions.
“We are still studying the details of the judgment. Our initial impression is that should the Executor of Mr Mankayi's estate wish to pursue his claim, he or she will now need to return to the High Court to continue with the litigation action. AngloGold Ashanti will defend the case on its merits,” it said.
The South African Press Association reported that a Constitutional Court judgment on Thursday paves the way for claims for occupational health diseases for ex-mineworkers in South Africa, a lawyer said.
The court ruled unanimously favour of Mankayi against AngloGold Ashanti.
“This judgment opens the way for compensation claims for occupational health diseases for ex-mineworkers in South Africa,” Mankayi's attorney Richard Spoor said in a statement.
“This is a huge step toward the rights and dignity of mine workers being respected and protected by the state.
“What an incredibly important win for mine workers,” he said.
Unfortunately, Mankayi died last Friday, “so the judgment comes a week too late for him”. He would be buried in Mthatha on Sunday, SAPA reported.
The judgment was a huge victory for ex-mineworkers with lung disease, who had won the right to claim civil damages from the mines,” Spoor said.
AngloGold Ashanti said it had learned today of the death of Mankayi and offered condolences to his family and friends.
The company said should other individuals lodge similar claims, these too would ultimately be defended by the company and judged on their merits.
It acknowledged that this case highlights a number of occupational health challenges faced by the mining industry. These are challenges the company has been working to address for some time, it said. These challenges include working to improve the management of dust underground so as to eliminate future incidences of occupational lung disease; working through the Chamber of Mines and with the Department of Health and the NUM, on a project to improve the access of former mineworkers suffering from occupational lung disease to health care and to the benefits provided for by the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODMWA) and to improve the operation of the statutory compensation fund. This project also involves community economic development programmes in areas where former mineworkers reside; and working actively in tripartite forums on the rationalisation and reform of the statutory framework for compensation in respect of occupational lung disease, seeking to achieve this in a manner that eliminates anomalies in the application of the legislation, but does not threaten the viability of the industry and the jobs of the people employed in it.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) noted “with excitement” the outcome of the Constitutional Court case.
“The outcome of the case is indeed a huge achievement for ex-mineworkers and mineworkers in general. It is an achievement in that for many workers who have been dismissed or incapacitated at work would now be able to claim compensation for acquiring diseases at work,” it said in a statement.
“It is indeed a huge achievement, it paves the way for claims against companies for occupational diseases as workers would be able to claim civil damages” said Frans Baleni, the NUM General Secretary. - I-Net Bridge