Anglo American challenged on mines ‘abuse’

21 April 2010 - 5:55pm
Press release

 

NEWS PEGS

  • Second British election live television debate between the main political parties' leaders on international affairs
  • Protests at the annual meeting of UK-based mining giant Anglo American over alleged overseas human rights abuse

Company cited in new election debate call

WHAT? Campaigners protest over claimed human rights abuse at the annual meeting of mines firm Anglo American
WHEN? 10.30-11.00 am GMT, Thursday 22 April 2010
WHERE? Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Broad Sanctuary, Westminster, London SW1P 3EE

Protestors will today target British mining giant Anglo American on alleged human rights abuse overseas hours before the three main UK political parties' leaders tackle foreign affairs in the second live televised general election debate.

Anglo American's wholly owned subsidiary, Anglo American South Africa Ltd, is being sued in South Africa by former gold miners suffering from lung disease silicosis.

The charity War on Want will display a banner declaring "Anglo Shame" outside the multinational's annual meeting.

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at the charity, said: "While Anglo American reaps massive profits, the firm stands accused of abusing human rights. If the prime ministerial hopefuls want to have their international development credentials taken seriously then they must hold companies like Anglo American to account for their human rights record overseas. "

The group London Mining Network will go into the AGM with former Anglo American South Africa worker Alpheus Blom to claim the company failed to protect black South African gold miners from life-threatening lung disease.

Blom said: "My heart is sore because the company hasn't done anything at all to help me. This case is long and I might die before it's over."

Richard Solly, the network's coordinator, said: "Like other enormous British-based mining multinationals, Anglo American likes to promote an image of social responsibility and good corporate citizenship.

"But we hear repeated accounts from around the world of the company ignoring what communities want and behaving in ways that undermine people's land rights, livelihoods, cultures and sense of well-being.

"Where it has begun to do the right thing, it is often at such a glacial pace that people begin to lose hope that anything will really change. It has to get its act together and start respecting what local communities, workers and former workers are telling it."

Richard Meeran, of London solicitors Leigh Day and Co, is working with the Johannesburg Legal Resources Centre in pursuing 24 legal test cases for gold miners who worked at Anglo American South Africa's gold mines in the Witwatersrand Reef, accusing the firm of negligence over excessive dust exposure of the miners.

It seeks compensation for lung diseases silicosis and silico-tuberculosis, as well as lost earnings and the cost of miners receiving regular medical monitoring for tuberculosis.

Symptoms for chronic silicosis include persistent coughing, chest pain, breathing problems and fever.

If the case succeeds, tens of thousands of other gold miners in South Africa could make claims worth millions of pounds. Major studies on South African gold miners have found about one in four former long-service gold miners suffer from silicosis.

The test case miners say that black miners were exposed to much higher levels of dust than white miners. They say that unlike for its white workers, the firm denied them access to on-site showers and changing rooms where silica dust could be removed from their bodies. The miners claim the company failed to ensure they were given adequate protection, for example respirators, against constant exposure to the dust.

 


CONTACTS

Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

Richard Solly, London Mining Network coordinator (+44) (0)7929 023214

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