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18 Feb 2014

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

AngloGold Ashanti silicosis lawsuit (So. Africa)

Status: CLOSED

Date lawsuit was filed
18 Feb 2014
Location of Filing: South Africa
Location of Incident: South Africa
Type of Litigation: Domestic


AngloGold Ashanti South Africa Mining


Snapshot: An ex-employee of AngloGold Ashanti filed a lawsuit alleging that he developed silicosis while working in one of the company's mines. He alleged AngloGold Ashanti failed to provide its employees with a safe and healthy work environment under South African laws and the common law duty of care. The company argued he was statutorily barred from making the claim by South Africa's Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act. The Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled in the plaintiff's favour eight days after his death.

In October 2006, a South African gold miner named Thembekile Mankayi sued AngloGold Ashanti, his former employer, stating that he developed the lung disease silicosis while working in Vaal Reefs mine.  The lawsuit, filed in the Witwatersrand Local Division of the High Court of South Africa, sought R2.6 million in compensatory damages.  Mankayi alleged that AngloGold Ashanti failed to meet its responsibility to provide its employees with a safe and healthy work environment under both South African laws and an employer’s common law duty of care to its employees.  AngloGold Ashanti responded that Mankayi was precluded by law from making the claims he set forth in his lawsuit.  Under South Africa’s Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA), workers or their families may not sue an employer for injury or death incurred at the workplace. Instead, the compensation commission considers these claims.  Mankayi’s claims of AngloGold’s negligence could only be heard in a court of general jurisdiction, not by the compensation commission. 

In addition, mineworkers’ lung diseases are covered under the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODMWA), which limits a mineworker’s compensation for illness due to working conditions to just a fraction of that awarded under COIDA (plaintiff’s counsel estimates that the payout is about a tenth of what it would be under COIDA).  The size of Mankayi’s claim challenged the limitations on compensation under ODMWA.  The South African Parliament is considering revisions to the law to address the disparity between the remedies available to workers under COIDA and ODMWA. 

On 26 June 2009, the High Court of South Africa, Witwatersrand Local Division ruled in AngloGold Ashanti’s favour, holding that Mankayi was statutorily barred from making his claim.  In March 2010, the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein heard Mankayi's appeal of the lower court's ruling.  On 31 March, the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's ruling.  The plaintiff appealed to the Constitutional Court of South Africa, and this court reversed the lower court's ruling and ruled in favour of Mankayi on 3 March 2011.  Mr Mankayi died of lung disease on 25 February 2011.

See also Gold miner silicosis litigation (re So. Africa)

- "Special report: From gold dust, a billion dollar claim", Ed Cropley, 20 Mar 2012
- "Ex-mineworker beats AngloGold, dies", SAPA, 3 Mar 2011
- “Multi-billion rand legal threat to SA miners crumbles”, Allan Seccombe, miningmx.com, 26 Jun 2008
- "South Africa: AngloGold Vs Ailing Worker in Test Case", Chantelle Benjamin, Business Day [So. Africa], 12 Feb 2008
- “AngloGold Ashanti silicosis case postponed to 2008”, Mariaan Olivier, Mining Weekly, 1 Oct 2007
- “Test case against AngloGold approaches”, Allan Seccombe, miningmx.com, 15 Jan 2007
- “AngloGold lawsuit seen as a test case”, Allan Seccombe, miningmx.com, 9 Oct 2006

- AngloGold Ashanti: Mankayi case - Constitutional Court ruling, 3 Mar 2011
- AngloGold Ashanti: Exception lodged in respect of case of Thembekile Mankayi upheld, 26 Jun 2008
- AngloGold Ashanti: Report to Society 06 - The legacy of silicosis
- Richard Spoor Inc Attorneys: [PDF] The significance of the Constitutional Court's decision in MANKAYI V ANGLOGOLD ASHANTI LTD for former gold mineworkers who suffer from silicosis, Nov 2012
- Richard Spoor & Charles Abrahams: [DOC] Press Statement: Precedent setting civil action instituted against Anglo Gold Ashanti Ltd, 9 Oct 2006 [plaintiff’s counsel]
- Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll: South Africa Silicosis [member of plaintiff’s legal team]

Mankayi v. AngloGold Ashanti Ltd.
- Judgment, Constitutional Court of South Africa, 3 Mar 2011 [reversing lower court's decision - COIDA does not extinguish plaintiff's common law claim for negligence]
- Media Summary, Constitutional Court of South Africa, 3 Mar 2011
- [PDF] Media Summary, Constitutional Court of South Africa, 17 Aug 2010
- Judgment, Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa, 31 Mar 2010 [upholding High Court's ruling]
- [PDF] Judgment, High Court of South Africa, Witwatersrand Local Division, 26 Jun 2008 [ruling that plaintiff's common law claim for damages barred by COIDA]
- [PDF] Summons filed in High Court of South Africa, Witwatersrand Local Division, 9 Oct 2006