Demands for 'justice' for silicosis sufferers made at Anglo AGMPublished by MAC on 2014-04-26
Source: Statement, Mining.com, Mining Weekly, AllianceNews (2014-04-26)
The issue of "justice" for former gold miners suffering from silicosis was once again brought to an Anglo American AGM (for previous MAC coverage see: Britons got talons: Anglo American "nicely" rebuffs its critics).
As noted in the last article a video has been created highlighting the plight of those miners who have suffered. See: http://www.leighday.co.uk/International-and-group-claims/Gold-mining-silicosis-(1). A second video, with interviews with two of the widows of former gold miners, is also available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hqB8o_rvos
Anglo American presented with Golden Snail Award at its 2014 AGM
London Mining Network
25 April 2014
This year's Anglo American AGM - always very genteel affairs - was a little more exciting than usual. Mark Beacon of LMN member group ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa) presented Anglo American's Chairman, Sir John Parker, with the ‘Golden Snail Award 2014′ during its AGM on 24 April for procrastinating over compensation for South African former mine workers dying of silicosis.
The Chairman was a little taken aback by the award, and thanked ACTSA for it. But he repeated - at great length - the company's position that it is not responsible for, and therefore not liable for, the fact that so many former gold miners from Anglo American group mines are dying of the disease. He said it was an industry-wide problem and Anglo American was working on industry-wide solutions.
The miners were represented at the AGM by Senzeni Zokwana, President of the National Union of Mine Workers South Africa and Peter Bailey, the union's Chair of Health and Safety. Senzeni used to work for AngloGold Ashanti, back in the days when it was owned by Anglo American. He pointed out that although litigation against Anglo American had brought relief to some of the former mine workers suffering from silicosis, many had died while waiting for a settlement. He called on the company to set up a trust fund, independently of the current litigation, to ensure that suffering former mine workers get the health care they need. Peter Bailey said he was very distressed by the company's apparent lack of a sense of urgency while former mine workers were dying. It was spending money on defending itself in court instead of on supporting ill mine workers. Anglo American should lead the industry in establishing a trust fund. Others would follow, and litigation would then fall away.
Company Chief Executive Mark Cutifani undertook to enable the NUM representatives to make this formal proposal to the South African Chamber of Mines. The NUM representatives judged this to be progress of a sort. We'll have to see what happens.
Blether about Brazil
Several organisations in Brazil had asked London Mining Network to raise concerns about Anglo American's Minas Rio iron ore project.
Andy Whitmore said that local people have reported intimidation by armed security guards supposedly linked to the company. Would the company make sure it was not linked in any way to abuses by armed security?
The answer to that was pure blether. The company works to the highest possible social and environmental standards, it is creating jobs and educating local young people... The very fact that it is obtaining the necessary permits shows that it is working to the highest standards.
Unlike well-known British television interviewer Jeremy Paxman in a famous conversation with then Home Secretary Michael Howard, Andy Whitmore did not press his question fourteen times. But he might have made the same concluding remark; "I take it the answer is no."
Richard Harkinson later asked about damage done by construction of a pipeline over 500 kilometres long to take ore from the mine to the new export port. Land acquisition agreements have not been completed. Would the company respect modified guidelines? Local people complained of disruption to their water supplies. How does the company act on people's complaints?
The answer was that water supplies were only disrupted for a few days. The company has now acquired all the land it needs for the pipeline. The proof that it is doing what it should do is that it is obtaining the necessary permits. Not much of a proof if local people question the efficacy of the permitting process.
Changing the climate
Edward Mason, representing the Church Commissioners and the Church of England's Pensions Board, noted that Anglo American had received an ‘A' rating from the Carbon Disclosure Project for its carbon emissions management. Would it continue to develop its carbon management so that it retains this ‘A' rating? Would it call for public policy changes to ensure that atmospheric carbon emissions do not exceed a trillion tonnes?
Well, maybe. The Chairman wants us to put our trust in technology. Anglo American mines platinum, platinum is used in catalytic converters. It mines copper, and copper is used in fuel cell technology. The company is calling on governments to support carbon capture and storage. So that's alright, then.
Alex Scrivener of LMN member group WDM spoke about the ‘carbon bubble'. We can only safely burn a small fraction of the world's known coal, gas and oil deposits if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. Coal deposits may well become ‘stranded assets'. Would the company pull out of coal?
No, it wouldn't. There is still a huge demand for coal. Three quarters of the new power stations being built in Asia are coal fired. But technological innovations like high temperature boilers and carbon capture and storage will overcome the problems. The world's poor need coal generation.
Alex pointed out that carbon capture and storage is a pipe dream. It is at least a generation away, and by then it will be too late to avoid catastrophic climate change. It is the poor who suffer most from climate change and coal mining; and much of Anglo American's coal is sold to Europe.
A representative of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, asked about the bitter dispute over pay at the company's platinum mines in South Africa. The Chairman said he did not welcome strikes. (What a surprise!) Strikes hurt everyone including the workers, and while the company is not making any money, it is not paying taxes. Long strikes in British coal mines killed the British coal industry and he feared for the future of the South African platinum industry. Mark Cutifani added that 30,000 workers had now not received a pay cheque for twelve weeks. The future of the platinum industry depended on increased mechanisation, but there had to be a just transition strategy for communities reliant on jobs in the mines. Chris Griffith, CEO of Anglo American Platinum, said that the company wanted to raise pay levels but not to a level that meant it had to lay people off. This would be disastrous not only for platinum mining but for industry in South Africa in general.
A representative of Share Action was concerned about the massive pay of company CEO Mark Cutifani compared to the pay of ordinary workers. Would the company support the establishment of a commission to look into conditions in the South African mining industry in the light of the Marikana massacre?The Chairman said the Board had no regrets about the CEO's pay because he was adding so much value to the company. The CEO said the company would participate in any commission set up to look into ‘living wage' levels in the industry in South Africa. With regard to relative salary levels, the issue is apparently ‘complex' - a helpful way of avoiding straight answers on the issue.
Coal in Colombia
I pointed out that there were big problems with community relocations around the Cerrejon Coal mine in Colombia, of which Anglo American owns one third (along with BHP Billiton and Glencore Xstrata). The relocation of the village of Roche had only recently been completed, and those residents who had chosen - or felt pressured - to give up agriculture were having problems making a living in other ways. The company had provided assistance in establishing new livelihoods but people were apparently getting into difficulties when the period of assistance came to an end. Then there is the community of Tamaquitos: this relocation process was presented by the company as a ‘model' relocation but residents complain of a lack of shade and too much wind, so their crops are suffering. What would Anglo American do to address these problems?
I was told that the removals have been carried out according to International Finance Corporation standards. There are often difficulties in the early stages of a relocation, but the situation is monitored and will be evaluated after three years. Assistance with establishing new livelihoods has been contracted to an NGO. If it is not doing its job, the company must address this.
I said that our contacts in the communities tell us that whenever we complain to the multinational owners in London, for a while local management start treating them better in Colombia. So the pressure on local management has to be constant.
Graciela Romero from LMN member group War on Want spoke on behalf of FECODEMIGUA, the Federation of Communities Displaced by Mining in La Guajira (the area where the Cerrejon coal mine is). FECODEMIGUA represents several communities displaced in the early stages of mine construction at Cerrejon. The federation had sent us a Declaration to pass on to Anglo American at the AGM. It reminds the company that it is two years since FECODEMIGUA made a set of proposals to address the injustices which community members had been suffering since the early 1980s. Cerrejon Coal management had responded with meetings with low level officials and with ‘corporate social repsonsibility' initiatives which were nothing more than public relations exercises. FECODEMIGUA needs to be taken seriously. It needs meetings with officials who have the power to make decisions.
The Chairman said that people come and go and sometimes do not do the job that is expected of them. Graciela should speak to Jon Samuel and the new head of Coal, Seamus French, after the meeting. Graciela said that the company clearly did not wish to take responsibility: it has had FECODEMIGUA's proposals for two years. The Chairman said that if she provided a note for his office they would follow up on this.
The Golden Snail again
ACTSA presented the Golden Snail Award to Anglo American for delaying justice for former mine workers dying of silicosis. But the company deserves the award for other things as well: unsatisfactory handling of community complaints in Brazil; failure to realise that protecting the climate demands pulling out of coal; resisting demands for decent pay for its platinum mine workers; and dealing with community complaints in Colombia. On all these counts, it is a champion procrastinator - a worthy recipient of the award.
Let's hope that by next AGM it will have got its act together.
NUM to demand 'justice' for silicosis sufferers at Anglo AGM
24 April 2014
JOHANNESBURG - Representatives of South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) planned to attend mining giant Anglo American's annual general meeting, taking place this afternoon, to demand "justice" for former gold miners suffering from silicosis.
NUM president Senzeni Zokwana on Thursday accused the mining giant's board of "procrastinating for the last 20 years" and demanded the company pay for testing, healthcare and decent compensation for ex-miners and their families who were suffering with the consequences of silicosis, particularly tuberculosis.
"Thousands of former goldminers have already died from lung disease and thousands more have had their lives destroyed. Unless Anglo American acts now, thousands more will die without the healthcare, compensation and support they deserve," he said in a statement, questioning the need to head to court for compensation.
Zokwana noted that, while there was a statutory compensation system, it provided a very modest level of compensation and without a diagnosis the vast majority of miners had not received compensation.
Anglo American told Mining Weekly Online in an emailed statement that it, along with industry, government and civil society partners, shared "common objectives" to improve the access to and quality of healthcare for all disadvantaged South Africans, particularly those living in rural areas of South Africa.
"We understand that partnership must be at the very heart of our approach in tackling not only health but broader sustainable development issues we face," an Anglo spokesperson said.
There are more than 3,500 miners and former miners taking legal action against Anglo American South Africa in London-based courts, while an action on behalf of 17,000 former miners against 30 mining companies, including Anglo American South Africa, Harmony Gold, AngloGold Ashanti and Goldfields, was currently under way in Johannesburg.
The Trade Union Congress, Action for Southern Africa and the London Mining Network would also protest outside the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, in London, where the AGM was taking place, in support of the miner's demands.
Anglo American Receives Calls To Set Up Silicosis Compensation Fund
By Tom McIvor
24 April 2014
London - Anglo American PLC Thursday received calls for it to set up a compensation trust for the victims and families of Silicosis sufferers in South Africa.
Holding its annual general meeting in London Thursday, the FTSE 100 mining giant was met by calls from representatives of South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers demanding "justice" for Silicosis sufferers and asking for the company to create a trust with funding for the families of the victims rather than carrying out a long legal battle over compensation.
Silicosis is a lung disease resulting from long-term exposure to silica dust, prevalent in mines.
NUM President Senzeni Zokwana on Thursday accused the board of ?procrastinating for the last 20 years? and said the company should "live up to the expectations of its values."
There are currently more than 3,500 miners and former miners taking legal action against Anglo American in London, while action on behalf of 17,000 former miners against 30 mining companies, including Anglo American and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd is taking place in Johannesburg.
Anglo American Chairman John Parker responded to the calls by saying the company fully supports initiatives to ensure that sufferers receive support and statutory compensation but sticks to its position that it is not liable for the claims.
"Anglo does not believe it is liable for these claims," Parker said. "We maintain that the gold mine operators on the sites involved were ultimately responsible for the safety and concerns of the miners."
The company also addressed ongoing platinum strikes in South Africa which have crippled the platinum industry over the last 12 weeks.
"A resolution of the strike is the most pressing issue facing the company but in the short term an unsustainable increase in pay would significantly damage overall industrial relations in the country," Chief Executive Mark Cutifani said at the AGM.
The platinum sector in South Africa has been massively affected by three months of strikes at mines owned by Lonmin PLC, Impala Platinum and Anglo American, as the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union in the country attempts to achieve significantly better wages.
In March, Lonmin PLC said that negotiations over the action had been suspended after parties could not reach any kind of consensus following an offer by the major platinum producers which proposed to the AMCU of wage increases between 7.5% and 9%, with the lowest paid employees receiving a 9% increase in year one, above the current South African inflation rate of 5.4%.
At the AGM Thursday, Anglo American said it remains in discussions to solve the situation but noted that in the future it plans to reduce the number of staff at its operations in the country.
"In the long term, we are looking at a transition strategy over time to move towards a more mechanised process in South Africa," Cutifani added.
The news comes as the company announced Thursday production increases across its major operations in the first quarter ended March 31, with the exception of platinum production, which fell due to the strike action in South Africa, leading the company to revise down its 2014 platinum production guidance.
The Financial Times said on Monday that the company is in talks with the South African government to try to eventually withdraw from its deep platinum mines at Rustenburg it part due to the affects of the strike action.
The Financial Times said no decision had yet been taken on how to exit Rustenburg and Anglo is not in specific talks over the sale, which could turn out to be a lengthy process. Anglo American made no comment on the subject in its statement Thursday.
At the AGM, Anglo American did not comment on the possibility of a Rustenberg disposal.
In February, the company announced that it had swung to a pretax profit in 2013 as improved production and weakening producer currencies helped company finances.
Anglo American shares closed up 0.7% at 1,557.64 pence Thursday.
Platinum strike doesn't get to spoil Anglo American's first quarter results
24 April 2014
Anglo American's shares rose 3% Thursday after the diversified miner reported significant production increase across all of its divisions in the first quarter except for its platinum output, which fell by nearly 40%.
Copper production climbed 18% to 202,000 metric tons thanks to higher ore grades at the company's Los Bronces and Collahuasi mines in Chile. As a result, the miner has raised its 2014 copper-output forecast to 710,000 tons to 730,000 tons from 700,000 tons to 720,000 tons.
Iron ore output rose 10% to 11.3 million metric tons in the first quarter, compared with the same quarter the previous year, due to solid performances from its two South African iron ore mines. The steel making ingredient and manganese accounted for more than 45% of the miner's underlying operating profit last year.
Coal output also jumped in the first quarter by 7.5% to 23.9 million tons, partly due to higher production from its Colombian Cerrejón mine, hardly hit by strikes in the same quarter of 2013.
Diamond production at its De Beers unit rose 18% on year to 7.5 million carats in the first quarter.
The platinum division of Anglo American, Amplats, lost 185,000 ounces of platinum production as a result of the over three-month strike over pay in South Africa. The world's top producer of the precious metal, said output fell to 357,000 ounces in the first three months of the year, down almost 40% compared with the same period last year.
Last week, CEO Mark Cutifani gave clear signs of wanting to offload the company's platinum mines in South Africa as soon as possible, as he said the Rustenburg operations were no longer considered one of Anglo's core assets.
Video highlights plight of South African miners as Anglo American AGM starts in London
Leigh Day Press release
23 April 2014
Lawyers for over 4,000 ex-miners are marking this year's Annual General Meeting ("AGM") of mining giant Anglo American plc with the launch of an online video highlighting the plight of miners suffering from the respiratory disease, silicosis, allegedly caused by excessive dust exposure on Anglo American gold mines.
The video has been endorsed by Leigh Day, Action for Southern Africa ("ACTSA") (formerly the Anti-Apartheid Movement) and the South African National Union of Mineworkers ("NUM").
It features images by the award winning photographer, Hein du Plessis, who took the haunting portraits of miners for the 2012 exhibition, "Real People. Real Mining", focusing on the plight of black miners employed on South African gold mines.
The video's soundtrack is by South African musician Hugh Masekela who has given his express permission for the track "Stimela" to be used in the video. The song details the cruelty of mining for those who had to work "deep down in the belly of the earth".
Anglo American plc's AGM will take place in London at The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, in Westminster, London from 2.30 pm on Thursday 24 April 2014. Senzeni Zokwana, the NUM President, and Peter Bailey, NUM's Health and Safety National Chairperson, will be personally attending the AGM to speak up for the victims.
Leigh Day are assisting 4400 miners in their legal action against Anglo American South Africa Ltd ("AASA"), now a wholly owned subsidiary of Anglo American plc.
The ex-miners are claiming damages from AASA for their illness, which they claim is due to negligence by AASA in failing to control silicosis and dust exposure at the 11 gold mines within the Anglo American group prior to 1998.
Silicosis is caused by excessive dust exposure and increases the risk of contracting TB, which is endemic in rural areas of South Africa. The combination of silicosis and TB is often fatal.
Rates of silicosis and TB are very high among black gold miners, who undertook the dustiest jobs in the mines.
Medical facilities available to ex-miners in areas such as the Eastern Cape are severely lacking.
Richard Meeran from Leigh Day who is representing the miners said: "If a claimant dies before a certain point in South Africa, their family cannot claim pain and suffering compensation, therefore, delays in the justice system deprive ex-miners and their widows of vast sums of money. The effect of the delay is also hugely beneficial, financially, to the industry. Anglo American is a multinational that prides itself on its commitment to corporate social responsibility."
"Anglo has been well aware of the predicament of these ex-miners and their families for decades. It is high time that they and others in the industry established a compensation scheme to alleviate the suffering of the workers on whose backs it built its business".
To view the online video click the link below:
For enquiries contact:
Richard Meeran at Leigh Day: +44 20 7650 1200
David Standard at Leigh Day: + 44 1949 850246 or 07540332717 Twitter: @DaveStandard