Mining Entities in South Africa Delaying Compensation of Sick, Dying Workers: Priest

Fr. Stan Muyebe. Credit: Southern Cross

A Catholic Priest in South Africa is lamenting the failure of some mining companies in the country to compensate miners who suffer and have died from silicosis and tuberculosis caused by exposure to high levels of silica dust while working in the gold mines.

In a Tuesday, August 23 statement, the Director of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) says while most companies accepted to settle damages after a class action suit was approved by a full Bench of the High Court in 2019, two companies, DRDGOLD and East Rand Proprietary Mines (ERPM), have continued appealing the court’s ruling.

“We call on DRDGOLD and ERPM to act in good faith in the interests of South African society, and settle their historic debts to mine workers made sick in their mines as a result of working in unsafe conditions,” Fr. Stan Muyebe says in the statement issued after the March 21 Humans Rights Day in South Africa.

He says the companies' persistence in pushing for litigation “has devastating effects as sick and dying mine workers hold on to life in a legal battle now raging for more than 10 years and spanning decades of mining activity.”

“We must address this tragedy,” says the member of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans – OP).


In 2012, ex-miners suffering from silicosis, a disease caused by inhaling silica dust from gold-bearing rocks,  sued their former employers for compensation.

19 of the mining companies reached an historic settlement in 2018. In 2019, the Tshiamiso Trust was established to compensate eligible mine workers and their dependents. 

DRDGOLD and ERPM, however, chose to continue litigating the high court ruling.

In February this year, the Supreme Court of Appeal made a ruling in favor of the ex-miners. 

In the statement, Fr. Muyebe says there is need to empower employees and their union representatives so they are able to stand up for their rights.

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He says, "We must ensure that people are aware of their constitutional rights. We need to empower unions, educate employees and hold employers accountable". 

He adds that there is a need “to challenge unscrupulous companies and their lawyers when they delay fair settlement.”

In August last year, Fr. Muyebe said the SACBC Justice Commission is working to ensure that victims of human rights violations perpetrated by powerful multinational corporations in the country get justice.

“The Justice and Peace Commission has been at the center of demanding justice for such workers, insisting to the mining industry that the health of the working poor is more important than profit,” he said.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.