Anglo American’s AGM is on Thursday, 21 April at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster.
Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Avebury has joined Rights and Accountability in Development and the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa in calling on the Board and shareholders of Anglo American to compensate former miners suffering from TB or dying of silicosis.
The text of the letter is below.
19 April 2011
Anglo American PLC
20 Carlton House Terrace
Anglo American South Africa
44 Main Street
Johannesburg 2001
South Africa
Dear Board and Shareholders,
You will be aware of the cases brought against Anglo American South Africa Ltd by ex-miners who suffer from serious respiratory diseases caused by dust in their gold mines. Last year, one such victim, Alpheos Blom, attended Anglo’s AGM in London to talk to the Board and its shareholders about his condition and that of thousands of other ex gold miners. Since then, Mr Blom’s health has deteriorated and he is now too ill to travel.  Many others have died undiagnosed, untreated and uncompensated. As members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on international corporate responsibility, we are calling on Anglo to take urgent steps to address this tragic epidemic of lung disease that has affected ex-gold miners and their communities.
Studies have found high rates of silicosis and tuberculosis in black miners who performed the dustiest jobs without respiratory protection. Despite having known for almost a century of the need to reduce dust levels to avoid these diseases, a 1994 commission of inquiry concluded that dust levels on the gold mines had not improved for fifty years. Estimates of the number of victims are in the tens of thousands, if not higher. Those affected are from the former “bantustans” and neighbouring states such as Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana & Mozambique, from which migrant labour on the mines was drawn during apartheid. 
Silicosis sufferers are far more vulnerable to tuberculosis, which is endemic in South Africa. Lack of TB diagnostic and treatment facilities in rural areas means that the consequences are frequently serious or fatal. Ex-miners who contract TB (often of a drug-resistant variety) may then transmit the infection to family and community members. One medical expert has referred to a “river of disease flowing out of the gold mines”. But the industry seems to have done little to ensure that miners’ health is monitored or treated promptly, even though this unfolding public health disaster has been fuelled by lax health and safety standards. Neither does the industry seem to have done anything to assist in ensuring that affected miners, unable to work and feed their families, are compensated for their injuries.
Anglo PLC’s subsidiary, Anglo American South Africa Ltd, headed probably the largest gold mining house in South Africa over the past century.  Anglo prides itself on its commitment to protecting the health of employees and in improving the well-being of the communities in which it operates.  Since Alpheos Blom last attended Anglo’s AGM in London a year ago to remind the Board and shareholders of Anglo of the situation, his health has deteriorated and many other ex-miners have died.  We therefore call on Anglo to establish:
(a) a settlement scheme that properly compensates victims of silicosis and silico-tuberculosis
(b) a system to identify miners who are eligible for compensation
(c) a system for ensuring early detection and treatment of TB in ex-miners.
We look forward to your response.
Yours sincerely,
Eric Avebury, The Lord Avebury, House of Lord, London S W 1A OPW
Patricia Feeney, Executive Director, Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID)
Michaela Clayton Director, AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA)