July 20th, 2010 | Global Times Little hope for compensating miners who got lung disease digging for gold
Dozens of ex-miners suffering from a work-related lung disease are pleading for help at a hospital in Yunnan Provinces.
However, the victims have nowhere to turn for compensation because the gold mine where they worked shut down 10 years ago and they have no employment contracts to prove they worked there.
Twenty-four migrant workers from Yajing township of Zhaotong, who worked at the gold mine in Shanxi Province after 1994, were recently diagnosed with silicosis ?an incurable lung disease caused by inhaling particles of silica or slate, the Yunnan Daily reported Monday.
The fatal disease, one of the most common occupational hazards, has already claimed the lives of two migrant miners, and the others are being treated at local hospitals, the report said.
“I have two little kids and I want to live. I really hope the government can help us safeguard our rights,” said former gold miner Li Yankui.
Li joined his fellow villagers to work as blasters at the gold mine in 1994. They earned 1,000 to 3,000 yuan ($442) per month drilling holes in the rock and inserting explosives, said Wang Dinghua, a miner with the lung disease.
The report said the illegal gold mine was shut down in 2002 after a mining accident. Wages were reportedly handed out in cash and no employment contracts were ever signed. The owner of the gold mine later disappeared.
After returning from Shanxi in 2002, Wang began coughing up blood and suffered chest pains, which grew worse despite expensive hospital bills he paid for treatment. He was diagnosed with silicosis last year.
The plight of the gold miners came to public attention last year after a local farmer who had worked in the mine filed a complaint.
The bureau conducted a health check among all the villagers who had worked at the gold mine and discover that 24 of them were suffering from silicosis.
The local government set up a special team at the end of last year to better protect the workers’ rights, but authorities said achieving anything would be very difficult.
The newspaper quoted Xie Yongsheng, director of the township’s justice bureau, saying, “The most difficult thing is that the workers do not have employment contracts, not even a name card.”
More than 700 people died of silicosis last year, accounting for 80 percent of all work-related diseases in 2009, the Ministry of Health said.
By Zou Le