Minerals Council outlines work done to support mineworkers with occupational lung diseases

20th March 2024 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Senior Contributing Editor Online

Minerals Council outlines work done to support mineworkers with occupational lung diseases

Minerals Council CEO Mzila Mthenjane

Industry organisation Minerals Council South Africa has welcomed comments by Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla in support of the continued collaboration between the council and the National Department of Health in expediting the certification and payment of medical benefits to current and former mineworkers with compensable occupational lung diseases.

Phaahla also acknowledged the constructive and positive role the Minerals Council has played in ensuring that sufferers of occupational lung diseases or their dependants are timeously compensated, the entity points out.

“We look forward to further engagements with Minister Phaahla and his department to continue improving and strengthening the compensation processes,” says Minerals Council CEO Mzila Mthenjane.

Under the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODMWA), the medical assessments and certification of occupational lung diseases are done by the Medical Bureau of Occupational Diseases (MBOD), which falls under the National Department of Health.

The Compensation Commissioner for Occupational Diseases (CCOD), also under the National Department of Health, has the responsibility for the payment of compensation for occupational lung diseases to eligible current and former mineworkers.

The ODMWA covers occupational diseases affecting the lungs of mineworkers.

It informs that the entity has assisted, through a voluntary levy paid by its members, in improving the functions and operational efficiencies of the MBOD and the CCOD to expedite and improve the processes to finalise claims for the benefit of ill mineworkers and mining companies.

However, delays in implementing proposed amendments to the ODMWA have prevented industry from implementing a statutory levy, rather than a voluntary levy, the Minerals Council explains.

Prior to the Minerals Council’s intervention in 2019, a lack of capacity in terms of specialised personnel, funding, administration systems and infrastructure had led to a build-up of significant backlogs, inadequate medical services to mineworkers and slow payment rates to beneficiaries, it avers.

Numerous attempts by the Minerals Council, organised labour and the government since 2009 were unsuccessful in improving the operational efficiencies, service delivery and governance of the MBOD and the CCOD.

One of the key constraints identified is the legislative inability of the Compensation Commissioner to charge cost-reflective levies that included administrative and healthcare costs.

The board of the Minerals Council agreed in 2019 to fund the operational enhancements and functionality of the MBOD and the CCOD through a board-agreed, voluntary, cost-reflective levy paid yearly by its members.

“The health and safety of employees in the mining sector is our priority. We are committed to alleviating and preventing the negative impact of mining legacy issues such as compensation for occupational lung diseases,” says Mthenjane.

Since 2019 and, including the year-to-date, the Minerals Council has paid more than R600-million to support the MBOD and the CCOD on behalf of its members, it points out.

The levies are paid by the Minerals Council on behalf of its members while waiting for the National Department of Health to finalise legislative amendments to the ODMWA to enable the Compensation Commissioner to charge cost-reflective levies that will continue to provide current and ex mineworkers with meaningful benefits.

Through the implementation of cost-reflective levies and the installation of a modern, efficient digital compensation claims management system and a master database, the Minerals Council’s intervention has resulted in payments of R1.1-billion paid to beneficiaries in the past five years compared with R2.4-billion paid in the previous 23 years, it points out.

The finalisation of claims has more than doubled to an average of nearly 8 000 a year during the past five years compared with an average of 3 700 in the previous 23 years, it highlights.

The value of benefit payments has increased by 33% since 2018.

The Compensation Fund’s capital has grown to R5-billion in 2022 from R1.8-billion a decade earlier despite the increased number of claims resulting from more efficient and expedited processes, and higher value payouts to beneficiaries, the Minerals Council says.

The processing of submissions to the MBOD was reduced to 90 days from 500 days.

“The Minerals Council’s intervention has saved its members R1-billion in levy payments since 2019 through the adjusted levies based on the actuarial valuation of the Compensation Fund.

“The corporate governance of the MBOD and the CCOD has improved, with timely annual reports and financial statements to Parliament and clean audit outcomes by the Auditor General for 2021/22 and 2022/23,” it avers.