Mine workers in South Africa are the world’s most affected by tuberculosis (TB), with 41,810 annual reported cases, according to data presented by the country’s health minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
Speaking during a debate in Parliament, Motsoaledi said that in addition to the 500,000 workers in the mining industry, 600,000 people staying around the mining operations are all vulnerable to TB; 230,000 partners of miners and 700,000 children are directly affected.
Motsoaledi said that one of persistent problems being faced by the mining sector in South Africa is ‘the very high, unacceptably high’ prevalence of TB in mines.
"It is 1% of the national total, and 1% of the population," Motsoaledi said.
Workers in gold mines were the worst affected with 17,591 TB cases and 1,143 related deaths recorded in 2009.
Motsoaledi said that for every one worker who dies each year due to a mine accident, nine more are killed by TB in South Africa.
"If you talk to any [union] leader about some of the hazards in mines that workers are faced with on a daily basis, they will immediately cite mining accidents," Motsoaledi added.
But detailed analyses have found that mining related TB fatalities are significantly greater than deaths from on-site accidents.
In 2009, there were 167 fatalities in the mining sector while there were 24,590 cases of TB, which resulted in 1,598 deaths.
The government has secured ZAR500m ($46.9m) funds for combating TB, and is planning to open 1 Stop Centre to provide medical services to miners even after their retirement.