South African gold miners to sue mining companies over lung diseases
May 13, Pretoria: Former South African gold miners will be suing mining companies over lung disease caused by their work, after a court in Johannesburg ruled that they could go ahead with class action against the mining companies on Friday.
The decision by Judge Phineas Mojapelo sets the stage for protracted proceedings which analysts have said could cost the gold industry hundreds of millions of dollars, as this high court decision paves the way for what would become the largest class action in South African history. According to the miners, they have contracted silicosis, an incurable lung disease, from years of working in the mines.
The lawsuit was first filed in 2012 resumed and it seeks class-action status and compensation and medical care for migrant and South African workers that have acquired silicosis, tuberculosis and other respiratory illnesses working in the country's underground gold mines over decades. “We hold view that in the context of this case, class action is the only realistic option through which most mine workers can assert their claims effectively against the mining companies,” judge Mojapelo said in his ruling.
Over 196 000 gold mineworkers in South Africa and 84 000 more migrant workers from neighbouring countries have silicosis. And there are an estimated 50 0000 more cases of occupational lung disease.
In 2014 an alliance of the gold miners, which includes Gold Fields (NYSE:GFI), AngloGold Ashanti (NYSE:AU), Anglo American South Africa, Harmony Gold Mining (NYSE:HMY) and Sibanye Gold Ltd. (NYSE:SBGL) (JSE:SGL), met with the government, labour unions and claimants’ lawyers to set up a compensation fund under current legislation rather than engaging in protracted and costly legal proceedings against 32 mining companies.
The Oslo Times