034 20.08.2015 One of the miners that was shown as part of a slide show at the press conference. A victim of Silicosis. On 24 and 25 August, the South Gauteng High court will hear argument in the application by Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) to intervene as amici curiae ( Friend of the court) at Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

Johannesburg - The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Section27 and Sonke Gender Justice hope to be allowed to fight for miners suffering from silicosis.

On Monday and Tuesday, the high court sitting in Joburg will hear arguments in the application by the three groups to be admitted as amici curiae (friends of the court) in the gold mining silicosis lawsuit.

The case was brought by former miner Bongani Nkala and another 55 against Harmony Gold Mining Company.

TAC secretary-general Anele Yawa said on Thursday that they would not let mining companies “get away with murder”.

“The exploitation of mostly poor black workers mirrors the apartheid and colonialist exploitation of workers,” he said, adding that mining companies failed to fulfil their obligation to treat and prevent lung disease and exposed miners to silicosis and tuberculosis.

Silicosis is caused by the inhalation of silica dust produced during blasting operations. It is characterised by inflammation and scarring of the upper lobes of the lungs.

Tanya Charles, policy development and advocacy specialist at Sonke Gender Justice, said they sought to highlight the socio-economic challenges faced by mostly rural women after their husbands are retrenched from the mines when suffering from the disease.

She said women sometimes had to give up their “educational and occupational opportunities to care for men”.

“Mostly the burden lies on women who have to feed these families from nothing, really,” said Charles.

John Stephens, a legal researcher at Section27, said a considerable number of big companies like Harmony Gold and Anglo Platinum were opposing their move to join the case as amici curiae. “All of the respondents are being aggressive.”

Stephens said a substantial number of former miners were not aware that they could apply for compensation after their retrenchment due to illness.

He said research conducted by the Health Trust found that 99 percent of ex-miners in the former Transkei had no idea that they could apply for compensation in terms of the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act.

Stephens said some former workers were either too sick or too poor to apply for the compensation.

The Nkala case would represent thousands of gold miners from as far back as 1956, said Stephens.

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