A Rapid Assessment of the Disability and Rehabilitation of Ex-Miners

DURATION:  1/07/2016 – 31/03/2017

ECF was commissioned by the World Bank to undertake this key assessment aimed at encouraging a greater understanding of the occupational health of ex-mine workers injured from working on South African mines living in 4 Southern African countries: Lesotho; Mozambique; South Africa and Swaziland.

The results would be used to inform key stakeholders of the needs and challenges and help propose a model for service delivery to support future services.

Background to the Project:

South Africa is recognised as a world leader in the mining industry. The sector plays a key role in the Southern African economy as a former employer to 2 million ex-mine workers and around 500,000 current mine workers. The country’s mines attract labour from Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries and provinces across South Africa.
Occupational health has long been at the forefront of addressing the debilitating consequences of mine work, given its high risk of injury. Work-related accidents from such risks are often catastrophic and life changing and injuries can include loss of a limb(s), head injuries, hearing and visual impairments leading to disability and an impact on daily life.
The treatment, monitoring and care for ex-mine workers and mine workers with occupational injury poses multiple challenges.  Historically, there has been a fragmented response to services across various levels for both former and current mine workers in Southern Africa. This includes government, country borders and sectorial related and raises concern over the effectiveness of such services.

Key Activities

The project delivered against a key results framework and refined development activities in collaboration with the World Bank as follows:


A report on the project was submitted to the World Bank Group in March this year and ECF currently awaits feedback.

Key conclusions include the following:

Historical challenges which existed in occupational health and safety on the mines and rehabilitation post injury are being improved through the work of the Mine Health and Safety Council and amendments to the Mine Health and Safety Act.

Due to the nature of most occupational injuries being immediate, the treatment and input by Rand Mutual Assurance and the Compensation Fund through Compensation of Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act has been relatively well managed.  Depending on the type of injury, many returned to work through vocational rehabilitation programmes but more still needs to be done to improve post-injury rehabilitation

However, for those who returned to their home countries because they could no longer work on the mines, access to ongoing rehab, finances and resources are frequently limited.  With a significant amount of focus on ex-mine workers with occupational lung diseases and TB, the injured ex-mine workers have become a forgotten population and the combination of their injury, age, poverty and the rural environment has all impacted on increasing their disability.  Noise induced hearing loss was also identified as a prevalent issue.  Combined with limited access to rehabilitation services and a lack of knowledge and awareness of their rights to benefits and programmes of support, the burden on their families and loss of roles and function within their households and communities is noted.

More needs to be done to develop an integrated and coordinated approach to addressing their needs through inter-sectoral collaboration and accessible points of entry to a network of services and support.

ECF team member assessing a disabled former miner.