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France pays €10,000 compensation to 700 former miners for anxiety

Court of appeal ruled in January that people who had worked at coal mine in Lorraine should be compensated for anxiety caused by working with toxic substances

Over 700 former coal miners have now received compensation of €10,000 each in recognition of anxiety caused by exposure to toxic substances as employees of Charbonnages de France.

The ruling in relation to 727 miners was made at the Douai court of appeal at the end of January with payouts being made yesterday (August 23).

The case could be used to improve conditions in other industries where workers handle toxic chemicals, such as farming.

Miners based in the Grand Est region were exposed to hazardous conditions without protection, with many going on to develop work-related illnesses. Some of them died as a result.

Compensation to those affected by anxiety was paid by the French State, Charbonnages de France having gone into liquidation while the trial – which lasted over eight years – was still in progress.

Setting a precedent

Given that significant numbers of people in France are still employed in dangerous industries, it is hoped that the appeal court decision will help improve working conditions and prevent similar incidents.

As well as workers in other French mining areas, farmers in particular may also stand to benefit, as they too come into contact with toxic substances that may leave them at an elevated risk of developing serious illnesses later on.

“The challenge with work-related illnesses is that they generally appear several years or even up to 30 years after risk exposure and it’s true that French law was somewhat geared towards compensation when the disease occurred,” the former coalworkers’ lawyer Cédric de Romanet told Franceinfo.

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