Authors: JI Phillips, G Nelson, N Vorajee, J Murray, N Ndlovu, JCA Davies

Source: Occupational Health Southern Africa. 2014; 20(4) 6-12



Background: In August 2012, 34 platinum mine workers were shot and killed by police at Marikana. After forensic autopsies, the cardio-respiratory organs of the deceased men were sent to the National Institute for Occupational Health for examination for compensable disease in terms of the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (Act 78 of 1973).

Methods: A review of the autopsy records provides some insight into the health and social issues faced by mine workers employed on a South African platinum mine.

Results: Platinum mine workers experience high rates of silicosis and pulmonary tuberculosis, some of which can be attributed to cross recruitment, migrancy and the contract labour system. These problems are exacerbated by poor living conditions.

Conclusion: Many factors add to the burden of ill health of platinum and other mine workers. This small series of autopsies highlights some of the social and economic issues which persist, despite decades of research and resulting recommendations, primarily in gold mine workers.

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