The dangers of working in the South African gold mines have long been documented. A forthcoming court hearing highlights the injustice of mine workers who contract silicosis and are sent home, too sick to work, with little or no compensation.
As they are mostly from rural areas, healthcare can be a long and expensive journey away. This together with the lack of income adds to the great strain on families already struggling to get by on so little.
Silicosis is a preventable but incurable lung disease that is contracted in the gold mines through inadequate protection from silica dust. Miners who contract silicosis get tired and out of breath quickly and are prone to lung infections, respiratory failure and TB.
The gold mining industry in SA has fought viciously to ward off the imposition of stricter regulation that would protect the health of their workers. South African law allows for miners to be exposed to much higher silica dust levels than many other countries.
Thom Pierce, a documentary and portrait photographer, partnered with Sonke Gender Justice and Treatment Action Campaign to tell the stories of some of the affected miners, their families and caregivers in the Eastern Cape.