Burden of Silicosis in the South African Mining Sector and its Effects on Migrant Labor from Neighboring Countries

Keywords: asbestos;, diamond;, gold;, labour;, migrant;, miners;, platinum;, silicosis;


Background: Among other minerals, South Africa has an abundance of asbestos and crystalline silica. Due to dust particles from these minerals, exposure causes respiratory diseases in particular silicosis. Most researches on silicosis have largely been of a cross sectional nature with no or limited long-term patterns reported. Objective: This review aims to analyse silicosis patterns in the gold, diamond and platinum workers over a period of 30 years, and to investigate possible causative factors for mining sector employees leading to them developing respiratory diseases associated with silica. Methods: This review article is a product of analysis of published reports and studies from South Africa published in the last decades. The EliScholar digital platform and Google scholar were used, and the focus publications were those that related to “silicosis”, “migrant workers”, silica dust” and autopsy. The review also allowed articles that were generalized, not merely focusing on one mineral. Autopsy reports obtained from the National Institute for Occupational Health database on miners were used for three sub-studies that are the subject of this review. Conclusion: The silicosis trends in miners at autopsy show a clear system failure by the mining sector in controlling and managing occupational respiratory diseases.