Gold mining firms granted partial leave to appeal silicosis ruling

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Johannesburg – The Johannesburg High Court on Friday granted gold mining firms partial leave to appeal the South Gauteng High Court's silicosis judgment.

"Certification was not successful on appeal, but the transmissibility element of the appeal was allowed," said Legal Resources Centre spokesperson Claire Martens. 

The mining firms were appealing against a High Court ruling allowing a class action suit seeking damages for up to half a million miners who contracted the fatal lung diseases, silicosis and tuberculosis. 

Last month, the High Court ruled that mineworkers could launch a silicosis class action suit against mining companies.

Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo said the court had reached consensus that there were sufficient common issues to justify the class action.

"All the mining companies are accused of failing to protect the health of the employees when they were legally bound to do so and as a result causing (the mine workers) to contract TB and silicosis," Mojapelo said.

He said, although the mine workers had developed silicosis or TB - both potentially fatal lung diseases - at different stages, many of them had made similar claims and those claims had been made simultaneously.
He said all the mineworkers had contracted the diseases from inhaling silica dust.

He said the certification of the class action would not be dependent on the outcomes of each individual miner’s case.

"It can't be overlooked that the case of all mineworkers may not be finalised on a case of one common issue."

Mojapelo added that the court's decision to grant the case a class action certification was because there was similar evidence and it would also be more economical.

Silicosis is 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.

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