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1999: Record compensation for miners
Ex-miners suffering from lung diseases have won the biggest industrial injuries case in British legal history with a compensation deal worth 2 billion.

Up to 100,000 ex-miners could be eligible for compensation under the deal which ends 14 months of negotiations between their lawyers and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Negotiations ended just before the deal was unveiled at the High Court in Cardiff.

These miners worked in some of the worst conditions in the world
Energy Minister John Battle
Each individual payout to compensate ex-miners who developed ill health after exposure to coal dust, will be determined by the level of disability and the number of years the men were exposed to it.

The government will set up 30 centres after Easter, across the country to examine individual cases and decide how much each ex-miner should receive.

Already 65,000 ex-miners, including 15,000 widows of those who died after developing work-related illnesses, have already registered claims but there are expected to be thousands more applications.

Tom Jones, of law firm Thompsons, which represents 26,000 ex-miners and widows, said: "At long last miners who have been waiting nearly two decades and through years of legal action will receive fair compensation.

"Tens of thousands of men have died or had their health severely damaged by British Coal's cynical attitude to health and safety."

The miners took legal action against the government and the nationalised coal industry eight years ago.

They claimed it had been known for decades dust produced in the coal mining process could cause lung disease but not enough was done to protect them.

They won their case in court two years ago triggering the launch of negotiations.

Energy Minister John Battle welcomed the settlement and pledged to speed up payments.

"These miners worked in some of the worst conditions in the world," he said.

Offers of compensation are expected to be made from the end of April, and will be reduced for those who smoked.

Miners who worked from 1954 will be eligible for the compensation.

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Up to 100,000 miners will receive money

In Context
Many miners started working underground at the age of 14 in the 1950s, when there were no dust masks and few showers at collieries.

When masks were introduced there were barely enough to go around and the necessary health and safety measures were not available to protect coal miners.

Six test cases successfully opened the floodgates for others to make claims, with cases of those who had lung cancer or were living with emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

The deal was final recognition by the government of the suffering of miners.

But as 800 new claims flooded in every week for compensation, officials were forced to apologise for major delays in the process.

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