While I was extremely pleased to read that the protracted silicosis case may be soon settled, I feel that the estimate that only 100,000 former mineworkers suffer from this awful disease is far too conservative, if not optimistic. The number is far larger, especially when factoring in the surviving partners and children of mineworkers who have already died.
The mining houses have been aware of the root causes of silicosis, had it within their power to reduce its prevalence and, for the most part, chose not to do so.
There is anecdotal evidence of workers being made to return to blasting sites before the legislated time lapse; not being given rock drill equipment, which reduces the number of silica dust particles during drilling; and workers being forced back underground while still on pulmonary Tuberculosis treatment.
No mine manager will supply to mine medical officers the actual dust readings in the workplace and, again, there is anecdotal evidence that these findings have been doctored when given to the Department of Mineral Resources.
I work in a medical practice that sees a large number of mineworkers with occupational diseases. Mines are medically boarding workers suffering from first-degree silicosis, which in terms of the law does not endanger them being awarded "red rickets".
Workers cured of their occupational pulmonary TB are being repatriated to their homes and are blacklisted so that they cannot find work in the mining industry.
Any settlement should include a moratorium on these practices and experienced mineworkers should be given the choice of whether they wish to continue working after their pulmonary TB has been successfully treated, or after having been found with first-degree silicosis.
If this is not done, they will be forced to become illegal miners.