High Court approves R5bn silicosis settlement

Miners to receive compensation for illnesses contracted at mines.
The class action suit against some mining companies was launched in 2012 on behalf of miners suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis. Picture: Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg

A Johannesburg High Court on Friday approved a R5 billion ($353 million) class action settlement between gold mining companies and law firms representing thousands of miners who contracted the fatal lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis.

The settlement follows a long legal battle by miners to win compensation for illnesses they say they contracted over decades because of negligence in health and safety.

“All the parties made an effort to ensure that the settlement agreement is reasonable, adequate and fair,” the High Court said in its judgement.

The gold producers agreed in May last year to the settlement but it needed to be approved by the Johannesburg High Court before being implemented.

Read: Silicosis settlement reached

The class action suit was launched in 2012 on behalf of miners suffering from silicosis, an incurable disease caused by inhaling silica dust from gold-bearing rocks.

It causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough and chest pains, and also makes people highly susceptible to tuberculosis.

The companies involved are Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, African Rainbow Minerals, Sibanye-Stillwater SGLJ.J, AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American South Africa. The latter no longer has gold assets but historically was a bullion producer. 

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My brother, my youngest brother, died in 2003 from silicosis for working for Kloof (now bought by Sibanye-Stillwater). That was good six years before my father died! When children die before their parents, at no fault of their own, but for simply trying to earn a living. Yet, these mines are still arguing to the very last minute trying to evade responsibilities. Sixteen years on,they are still on court caught up in greed and the families of miners who died like my brother? Thanks to the lawyers who want to earn a living themselves, otherwise these mining houses would have gotten away with crime. But even as they pay, $300 mil dollars is just a small portion of what they earned on those billions of dollars they made out ot the sweat and tears (and even death) of men from across this beautiful continent of ours. To the mining houses, ‘thanks for nothing’, for justice delayed is justice denied.

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