Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 28 May 2008 – Leading iron ore producer Assmang Limited does not believe that any workers at its Cato Ridge plant have manganism, on the basis of expert medical diagnoses received.
A company release issued here says Assmang has fully supported all employees who were initially diagnosed with manganism. From the time they were put off work – in some cases more than a year ago – they have received full salaries and benefits, as well as medical assistance from the company.
Assmang has also told the Department of Labour that it disputes the initial diagnoses. The company arranged new medical examinations last week, but the seven employees, plus an eighth who had been employed by a contractor, refused to attend.
They are part of a group of 10 workers previously diagnosed with manganism. Two are no longer employed by Assmang. All 10 have been classified by the State Compensation Commissioner as disabled, and have qualified for benefits under workmen’s compensation legislation, the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA).
Assmang had previously accepted the original manganism diagnoses at face value, but on later medical advice the company disputed the original diagnoses and the manner in which the incidents had been reported to the Compensation Commissioner.
The employees contend that they are 100% disabled and cannot work, and have refused to attend medical examinations that would enable the company to determine exactly what may be wrong with them.
When workers are classified as disabled under workmen’s compensation legislation, they leave the company’s employ and then receive compensation benefits in terms of COIDA.
“The company has been extremely supportive, but these employees are intent on relying on the Compensation Commissioner’s determination that they are 100% disabled, and they are to receive compensation based on that determination. We have various options open to us, and we will consider these options on their merits,” said Assmang director Jan Steenkamp.
The background is that during February 2008 Assmang presented evidence to a Department of Labour inquiry into manganism at the Cato Ridge Works. The evidence was to the effect that, on the information available, it appeared that the ten persons who had initially been diagnosed with manganism did not actually have it.
Despite the evidence presented in February 2008 – and despite a formal request to the Compensation Commissioner from Assmang not to process any further manganism case applications of the ten in the light of new evidence and pending medical examination of the relevant persons using more appropriate and relevant diagnostic protocols – shortly thereafter the Compensation Commissioner finally accepted all the ten as having manganism. Assmang has formally asked the Compensation Commissioner for his reasons for making these administrative decisions.
In the above circumstances, Assmang was of the opinion that the ten persons should be medically re-examined, as allowed in terms of the COID Act, in order finally to determine the nature of their condition. It is considered very important that the ten should be properly diagnosed so that they may be properly treated for their medical conditions, today’s statement said.
These medical examinations were scheduled by Assmang for 19 and 20 May 2008. A recognised USA specialist neurologist on manganism was contracted and was in Durban to conduct the examinations. Despite notice having been given on 29 April 2008 to the ten persons and their legal representative, all of the ten refused to attend the medical examinations.
In the light of their refusal, Assmang will now be considering its position, the statement added.