The Department of Health (DoH), along with eight mining companies currently and historically involved in the gold mining industry, have partnered to enhance the compensation system for mineworkers who have suffered occupational lung diseases while working in the mining sector.

Launched in Carletonville last week Friday, Project Ku-Riha – meaning ‘compensation’ in Tsonga – aims to make substantial inroads in addressing the backlog of compensation claims from mineworkers while ensuring that new valid claims are paid within a reasonable timeframe.

The eight participating gold mining companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, DRDGold, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Gold and Village Main Reef.

The mining companies have jointly committed to provide R5 million funding for Project Ku-Riha, which has enabled the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases (MBOD) and the Compensation Commissioner for Occupational Diseases to carry out the necessary work.

The companies involved believe that Project Ku-Riha is fundamental to their broader initiative aimed at addressing issues relating to compensation and medical care for occupational lung disease in the gold mining industry in South Africa. For the companies, an efficiently operating compensation system is a critical part of the comprehensive solution they are seeking.

Project Ku-Riha marks a turnaround in the administration and operation of the compensation fund on which mine workers who have contracted occupational diseases depend. All parties recognise that the compensation system has not been operating as effectively as it should, with significant backlogs in claims processing having built up over the years.

The companies are engaging a range of stakeholders in a quest to design and implement a comprehensive solution that is both fair to past, present and future gold mining employees, and also sustainable for the sector.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Compensation Commissioner Barry Kistnasamy and his team were pivotal in establishing the project, and builds on the work already undertaken by the DoH and the Chamber of Mines, which led to the establishment of the first two One-Stop Service Centres in Carletonville and Mthatha.

These centres offer medical examinations, rehabilitation assessment, health promotion and counselling to all patients, as well as referrals to other medical specialists if necessary. Patients can now be diagnosed, treated and receive the help they need to stay healthy, in one place.

In addition, the centres help individuals prepare and submit claims to the MBOD for compensation.

Among other things, the work of Project Ku-Riha also includes Data capturing and verification, dealing with certification backlogs, project management and financial assistance to the Carletonville One-Stop Service Centre.

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