Miners settle for about R5bn in silicosis class action

Johannesburg -  Seven mining firms on Thursday reached an agreement to settle a historic class action brought on behalf of thousands of mineworkers who contracted the deadly silicosis disease while working underground.

Mining houses African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGoldAshanti, Gold Fileds, Harmony, Sibanye-Stillwater and Pan African Resources have made a R5bn provision for the settlement.

An amount of R1.4bn towards benefit payments would be made in the first two years, in what has been described as the country’s largest class action.

The offer is subject to approval by the South Gauteng High Court.

Lawyers representing the miners said the compensation covered all “eligible workers suffering from silicosis and/or tuberculosis, who worked in these companies’ mines from 12 March 1965 to date”.

Silicosis is a debilitating pulmonary disease which is caused by inhaling excessive amounts of silica dust found underground, causing damage to the lungs and ultimate death.

The “compromise settlement” was reached in a bid to avoid a long drawn out litigation process.

Beneficiaries will receive amounts between R70 000 for claimants in early stages of silicosis and R500 000, which will be awarded to those with a “special aggravated medical condition”.

“This category provides relief to a small number of claimants who are suffering from extraordinary disease conditions which exceed most other claimants.”

A trust named Tshiamiso, Setswana for “to make good” will be set up before the end of the year to manage the funds.

“All parties are pleased at the conclusion of these highly complex negotiations, and hope that the agreement will be duly approved by the High Court,” said the lawyers in a statement.

The miners have been represented by a range of law firms, some going back 14 years, including Richard Spoor Inc, Abrahams Kiewitz, Legal Resources Centre, Motley Rice LLC and Hausfeld LLP.

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