Anglo American pressed over dying miners
A dying former Anglo American miner will speak out at its annual meeting today in a bid to win compensation and healthcare for men like him left destitute with silicosis which they blame on the company’s neglect.
Daniel Seabata Thakamakau, 66, who toiled underground at gold mines in the South Africa province Free State, is coming to Britain to attend the meeting in London. He is one of 1200 claimants whose case is being brought by the law firm Leigh Day as a mass action in the High Court against Anglo American South Africa, a wholly owned subsidiary of Anglo American which is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Thakamakau, whose silicosis from dust exposure has led to his contracting tuberculosis, says: “The tuberculosis is so bad that I am unemployable. I gave the best years of my life to that company. We were treated like animals. They make billions each year and I can't even provide a plate of food for a day for my wife and four children. I am constantly in pain. I live from day to day.”
Anglo American South Africa – which also faces legal action in its own country – disputes the English court’s ability to hear the claim. The miners’ demands are supported by the TUC and the British non-governmental organisations Action for Southern Africa, War on Want, the London Mining Network and Amnesty International UK.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Anglo American has made vast amounts of money from the labour of its South African workforce. Now the company must do the right thing, listen to the unions and compensate the workers for the illnesses caused by the jobs they did."
Tony Dykes, the ACTSA director, said: “Black southern Africa gold miners toiled in hazardous conditions creating profits for the mining companies. Many are now suffering from silicosis. They need and deserve adequate compensation and access to health care. Litigation can be complex and lengthy. Action is needed now. We call on Anglo American South Africa to stop procrastinating, to lead by example and ensure decent compensation and justice for ex-gold miners suffering from silicosis now.”
Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: “These miners are seeking justice for the neglect they faced doing an extremely hazardous job. Anglo American is responsible for the suffering of the miners in South Africa. The company must pay damages for their sickness and ensure adequate healthcare.”
Richard Solly, the London Mining Network’s coordinator, said: “For years we have been challenging Anglo American and its subsidiaries to improve the way they treat agricultural communities being removed from their land to make way for mining. The devastating suffering of former mineworkers in the company's South African mines shows that the company's record on its treatment of workers is as reprehensible as its treatment of communities “
Peter Frankental, economic relations programme director at Amnesty International UK, said: “Anglo American should not be allowed to hide behind their South African subsidiary. Anyone suffering from silicosis because of the negligence of a mining company should be able to pursue litigation against the parent company where ultimate control and responsibility lies."
- The Anglo American AGM will take place at 2.30 pm on Thursday, 19 April at the Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG.
- Besides Thakamakau, two representatives of the National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa - Peter Bailey, national chairperson for health and safety, and compensation officer Adam Letshele - and Professor Tony Davies, former director of the National Institute for Occupational Health in Johannesburg, are travelling to London to press the case for compensation and are available for interview.
- The TUC will host a photographic exhibition on the South African miners’ plight, from 18-29 April at Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS. There will also be a public meeting in Congress House at 6.30 pm on 18 April