Silicosis ruling not on merit – mine companies

Johannesburg - It is important to note that the court finding enabling a silicosis class action suit by 69 claimants against 32 South African mining companies does not represent a view on the merits of the case brought by claimants.

This is the collective response on behalf of six mining companies to what some regard as a landmark judgment by the South Gauteng High Court. The ruling now makes it possible for former mineworkers to proceed with a class action seeking damages from mining companies for lung diseases they contracted while working at their operations.

The court found sufficient common cause to justify a class action for silicosis and tuberculosis. The mining companies are accused of failing to protect the health of the employees when, it is claimed, they were legally bound to do so. As a result, they are alleged to have caused the mine workers to contract TB and silicosis.

A class action trial would therefore deal with all the evidence simultaneously, in what is regarded as the largest class action ever to be certified in SA.

A collective statement on behalf of the Occupational Lung Disease Working Group – representing African Rainbow Minerals [JSE:ARI], Anglo American [JSE:AGL], AngloGold Ashanti [JSE:ANG], Harmony [JSE:HAR] and Sibanye Gold [JSE:SGL] – states that the companies are studying the court’s decision.

Each company is yet to decide whether to lodge an appeal against the finding.

“The companies remain of the view that there are issues related to compensation and medical care for occupational lung disease that need to be addressed through engagement between stakeholders, with a view to designing and implementing a comprehensive solution that is both fair to past, present and future gold mining employees, and also sustainable for the sector,” according to the statement.

“They, therefore, remain committed to achieving these goals.”

The working group and its members indicated they will not comment further on the matter until they have studied the full judgment properly.

On March 5 this year, 4 365 former gold miners and relatives of deceased former miners reached a settlement with Anglo American SA and AngloGold Ashanti on claims instituted in 2012 for dust-related lung diseases, silicosis and silico-tuberculosis, which they claim were contracted from working in unsafe conditions in the mines. These claims were completely separate from the latest silicosis class action proceedings.



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