Silicosis class action bid filed against Anglo American

2013-03-07 13:14

Lawyers representing gold miners suffering from the deadly lung disease silicosis said today they had filed a class action lawsuit application against the South African arm of global mining giant Anglo American.

The application by the legal groups from South Africa and Britain is the latest in several class action suits being lined up against South Africa's once mighty gold mining industry.

It is likely to be several months before a judge rules on whether the case can proceed.

Anglo American, which switched its headquarters from Johannesburg to London in 1999, no longer has gold mines in South Africa but the lawyers said its Johannesburg-based unit still had assets worth around $15 billion.

The lawyers include London's Leigh Day and South Africa's Legal Resources Centre, a practice focusing on human rights.

They allege that Anglo American South Africa was the parent company of 11 gold mines up until 1998 and that it "negligently controlled and advised its mines with regard to prevention of dust exposure and silicosis".

The class action application stems from a case first lodged in 2004 by 18 ex-gold miners who said they contracted silicosis at Anglo's President Steyn mine in the Free State province. At least three of these men have since died.

The two sides agreed last year to go to arbitration, with a hearing chaired by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, now expected early next year.

Anglo American said it needed to study the latest legal move, but reiterated its previous denials of any wrongdoing.

"Overall, Anglo American does not believe it is in any way liable for the silicosis claims and will defend those actions," spokesman Pranill Ramchander said.

The case is separate from a silicosis class action bid filed in December against AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony and Anglo American South Africa on behalf of 17 000 former miners.

Silicosis, which has no known cure, is contracted by inhaling tiny particles of silica dust from gold-bearing rocks over many years underground without adequate protection.

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

Tens of thousands of black miners from South Africa and neighbouring countries are believed to have contracted silicosis during the decades of white-minority rule, when their health and safety were not priorities of the country's gold barons.

If successful, the suits could cost the mining firms billions of dollars, according to legal and industry experts.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

Ratings: Habana thrives in rout
LIVE: Namibia 16-17 Georgia
Meyer hails Habana
Boks thrash USA, Habana level with Lomu
Traffic Alerts

Relationships and significant connections may play an important role in your day today. Let the warmth of the Leo moon inspire more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.