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North West Mineworkers Receive R76.9 Million in Unclaimed Benefits Amid Mining Sector Job Precarity

Published March 01, 2024
4 months ago

In a significant development for workers in South Africa's mining industry, ex-mineworkers in the North West province have received a substantial R76.9 million in unclaimed benefits. This triumph comes after concerted efforts by the provincial government to trace and process claims for those who left the industry without accessing their entitled funds.

From 2022 to 2023, the North West provincial government, under the guidance of Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Sibongiseni Dhlomo, identified 20,798 former mineworkers and processed 2,669 claims, culminating in the multi-million-rand payout. This remarkable achievement is part of a broader compensation project initiated by Dr. Dhlomo in August 2022, aimed at assisting ex-mineworkers and their beneficiaries in obtaining compensation for occupational lung diseases and other social protection funds.

The success of this initiative marks a significant upturn in the retrieval of unclaimed benefits, a stark contrast to the mere 10-11% payout recorded from 2017 to 2021. According to Dr. Dhlomo, this year's payout of R76.9 million is a testament to the effective strategies and diligence of the relevant departments and community health workers dedicated to tracking down beneficiaries.

The province's Health MEC, Madoda Sambatha, also highlighted ongoing efforts to locate 168,000 former mineworkers and their beneficiaries. This challenging task leverages the province's robust 'loss to follow-up' program, which employs community health workers to locate individuals who deviate from tuberculosis treatment regimes. The integration of this system with the compensation scheme underscores an innovative approach to extend its reach.

However, the announcement of this financial boon is shadowed by looming threats to job security within the mining sector. A recent Section 189 process concluded by the mining conglomerate Sibanye Stillwater has jeopardized thousands of jobs. Intended restructuring is set to affect numerous shafts at the company's SA Platinum Group Metals operations, signaling closure and downsizing amid a broader jobs crisis in the industry.

Impala Platinum has similarly signaled alarming trends, with CEO Nico Muller expressing concerns over potential operational shutdowns due to deteriorating metal prices. A harsh drop in profits and the deferral of project spending underscore the volatile state of South Africa's mining economy.

This situation underlines the importance of ensuring that workers' rights and entitlements, such as compensation benefits, are safeguarded and made accessible. The North West's initiative sets a precedent for other regions, prompting necessary reflection and response to the mining industry's systemic challenges.

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