Tens of thousands of South African gold miners who have suffered from the devastating diseases contracted because of their work and the demand for gold around the world may now have a chance to receive compensation. The miners who got lung diseases while working underground, as well as families of miners who died of such diseases, are now able to launch a class action suit against the mining companies thanks to a ruling by the country's High Court on May 13, 2016. The ruling opens the way for litigation spanning decades of cases.
Many people who are now sick worked in South Africa's gold mines during apartheid, when miners rarely had the proper gear to protect them against silica dust inhalation. They suffer diseases such as silicosis, preventable but incurable, and pulmonary tuberculosis.
British photographer Thom Pierce, who is based in Cape Town, South Africa, photographed 56 sick minors and widows across the country in the Eastern Cape, Lesotho and Johannesburg who are named in court documents.
Patrick Sitwayi (seen here with his daughter-in-law) lives in with his wife, five children and three grand children. He is 57-years-old and has silicosis from working underground for 22 years. He did not receive any compensation for his illness and is unable to support his family without a job. He has to walk with crutches because his toes became infected and were amputated. He said the primitive safety equipment and hot working conditions in the mines, caused excess sweating that collected in his plastic gumboots.