Joseph Mothibedi takes careful, heavy breaths as he reaches for the white plastic chair in front of him. "My lungs are full of holes," the father of two says as he sits and leans back.

More than three decades of mining gold at Vaal Reefs mine — today owned by AngloGold Ashanti — have left the 62-year-old with silicosis, a lung disease caused by the inhalation of silica dust. It can’t be cured.

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, ProfileData financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Times Select.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now