So. Africa: Court allows silicosis & tuberculosis class action lawsuits against gold mining companies

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Article
31 May 2019

So. Africa: 5 mining companies ask Court to accept 5 billion rand settlement in lawsuits re gold miners affected by silicosis & tuberculosis

Author: Ciaran Ryan, AllAfrica

"South Africa: Five Mining Groups Ask Court to Approve R5 Billion Silicosis Settlement Case", 30 May 2019

Lawyers for thousands of gold miners afflicted by silicosis or tuberculosis lined up on the side of five mining groups this week to ask the Gauteng High Court to approve a R5 billion settlement agreement.

The agreement provides for the payment of benefits worth R5 billion to mineworkers and the dependents of dead mineworkers who contracted silicosis or pulmonary tuberculosis during or after their employment from 1965. The benefits will be paid through the Tshiamiso Trust, which was set up specifically for this purpose

In 2016 the case was certified as a class action by the Gauteng Local Division of the High Court, and in December 2018 the court certified four classes of claimants: (1) those who contracted silicosis or were exposed to silica dust; (2) the dependents of deceased miners with silicosis; (3) those who contracted tuberculosis; and (4) the dependents of deceased miners who contracted tuberculosis while working at the mines.

Now the court is being asked to approve the R5 billion settlement agreement between legal representatives of the mineworkers and the five mining companies. The mining companies have secured guarantees for the R5 billion claim, though the eventual claim could be higher. Of this, R845 million has been set aside for administering the Tshiamiso Trust, which will accept claims for a period of 12 years, plus one additional year to wrap things up.

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Article
26 February 2018

So. Africa: Class-action silicosis case likely to take six months to settle as three new companies join the matter

Author: Allan Seccombe, Business Day (South Africa)

"Class-action silicosis case likely to take six months to settle as three new companies join the matter", 7 Feb 2018

Hopes of a quick resolution to the occupational lung disease (OLD) class-action, which includes thousands of former miners afflicted with silicosis, have been tempered, with expectations of a settlement to take to the courts expected in the next six months instead of early this year as three new companies join the matter...[F]ormer CEO of Harmony and now chair of the working group on OLD, said the lawyers and parties involved in the class-action were hammering out a complex settlement, with a lot of details needing to be resolved before the matter could be returned to court for ratification...The six mining companies are Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, African Rainbow Minerals, Sibanye-Stillwater, AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American. Just recently, Pan African Resources, DRDGold, and Randgold & Exploration have joined the matter...In the 12 months to end-October 2017, there were 7,756 compensation payments made to former miners with OLDs, worth R226m, compared to 1,628 compensation payments worth R79m in the same period in 2015.

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Article
11 December 2017

So. Africa: Lawyer representing 30 000 mineworkers in silicosis case says deal with mines most likely final by end of 2017

Author: Pete Lewis, GroundUp (South Africa)

"Silicosis: we’re close to a deal with the mines, says miners’ attorney", 11 Dec 2017

Upwards of 100,000 mineworkers and former mineworkers, and their dependents, are claiming damages for contracting silicosis and/or TB from exposure to dust underground. The class action has been certified for trial by the South Gauteng High Court. Richard Spoor, who represents the mineworkers, told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources that he was “reasonably confident” that the two-year negotiation over a settlement of the class action litigation would be concluded before the end of 2017...Spoor told the committee it was urgent to reach a compromise because mineworkers were dying. He said about 4% of the 30,000 mineworkers who started the class action had died each year since 2006, when the litigation started...

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Article
5 June 2017

NGO calls for justice for southern Africa mineworkers affected by silicosis and tuberculosis

Author: Action for Southern Africa (United Kingdom)

Anglo American South Africa (AASA) was the largest and longest established gold mining company in South Africa throughout the 20th century, operating 12 mines within its group. AASA is a wholly owned subsidiary of global mining giant Anglo American plc...The company is no longer involved in gold mining but it is a major producer of diamonds, platinum, iron ore and thermal coal. The most significant of the other companies who are (or have been historically) involved in gold mining in South Africa are: African Rainbow Minerals; AngloGold Ashanti; Gold Fields; Harmony; and Sibanye Gold...The South African mining industry had an appalling safety record: approximately 69,000 mineworkers died in accidents between 1900 and 1993, and more than 1 million were seriously injured Mineworkers with chronic silicosis are unable to continue working. They and their families are often left destitute and have very limited or no access to screening and medical facilities, especially in rural areas, where most former mineworkers live. The gold mining companies have long proposed to help identify those ex-mineworkers across Southern Africa who are eligible to claim compensation for illness – but they have not yet done so. This is typical of the way in which the gold mining industry has failed to live up to its responsibilities towards its former employees.

ACTSA [Action for Southern Africa] demands that the mining companies which profited from South Africa’s gold urgently provide proper medical screening, decent financial compensation and healthcare, and adequate support for all ex- and current mineworkers suffering from silicosis and TB...

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Article
20 October 2016

So. Africa: NGO says Women's "invisible" labour in sustaining mining labour force in communities affected by silicosis hardly recognised

Author: Tanya Charles, Sonke Gender Justice, in GroundUp (South Africa)

"Silicosis case: thousands of women could lose out", 20 Oct 2016

In the pending lawsuit against South Africa’s entire gold mining industry, thousands of women stand to lose out on the compensation due to the dependants of deceased miners because the care work they have done to sustain the mining labour force is invisible...South Africa’s gold mining industry has always profited from the deadly toil of black mine workers. What is seldom discussed is how they have also benefited from the unseen and undervalued parallel work of the women and children in labour-sending communities where mineworkers come from...Sonke Gender Justice is entering the second phase of research aimed at making visible the burden that rural women have had to shoulder because the industry has failed in its duty not only to prevent miners from exposure to the silica dust that causes silicosis, but also to provide adequate medical care after they have become sick...

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Article
7 June 2016

Silicosis and TB: Mining companies should stop appealing and start negotiating

Author: Action for South Africa (ACTSA)

The news that the mining companies will appeal against the decision of the High Court in South Africa on 13 May 2016 to certify (i.e. allow to proceed) the class action on behalf of 30,000 current and ex-gold miners with silicosis and TB is deeply disappointing. ACTSA called on the mining companies when the High Court decision was announced not to appeal but to meet urgently with the representatives of the miners and ex-miners with silicosis and TB to agree a settlement which provides decent health care and compensation.

...The mining companies say they want a settlement and not protracted litigation yet it is they who have decided to appeal. The obvious conclusion is that the mining companies are involved in tactics to delay any settlement and for compensation eventually agreed to be at a low amount. Justice delayed is justice denied as many of those with silicosis and TB are becoming elderly and increasingly ill. They may die before a settlement is reached...

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Article
3 June 2016

South African mining firms to appeal silicosis ruling

Author: TJ Strydom & Wendell Roelf, Reuters

South African gold mining firms plan to appeal against a High Court ruling that allowed class action suits seeking damages for up to half a million miners who contracted the fatal lung disease silicosis and tuberculosis, they said on Friday.

A High Court decision last month set the stage for protracted proceedings covering cases dating back decades in the largest class action suits yet in Africa's most industrialized country.

Anglo American, Africa's top gold producer AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Gold and African Rainbow Minerals, have formed the Occupational Lung Disease (OLD) group to deal with such issues.

The group confirmed that the companies had filed individual applications to appeal the class certification judgment handed down on May 13, adding that the firms have been seeking a settlement with the affected workers.

"Whilst the companies deny liability for the claims, it is nonetheless the working group’s view that a fair and sustainable settlement is preferable to long and protracted litigation," the OLD said in a statement…

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Article
23 May 2016

Charles Abrahams, silicosis attorney: ‘Someone has to bat for the underdogs’

Author: Greg Nicolson, Daily Maverick (So. Africa)

Sitting in the foyer of the Radisson Blu, Charles Abrahams looked past the hotel pool towards a Sandton construction site. Downstairs, delegates were meeting to discuss compensating mineworkers for occupational diseases, an issue Abrahams has worked to bring to the fore. “You grow up in a world where the more money and power you have the more human you become – that’s how I grew up…,” said the attorney, who has built a reputation for taking on corporates who have avoided legal accountability, before and after 1994…Throughout our conversation, Abrahams often mentioned “principle politics”, which defines his sense of justice, values and career focus. He’s an expert on how South Africa’s transition to democracy let corporates who were explicitly or implicitly supporting the apartheid regime avoid accountability. 

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Article
14 May 2016

Gold Fields : Hausfeld Announces Class Action Certified for South African Gold Miners in Landmark Case

Author: GlobeNewswire

The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has certified the first class action in South African history for sick workers, allowing gold miners suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis to proceed with their claims against 30 gold producers, including AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, Anglo American, and African Rainbow Minerals...

...The defendants argued vehemently against inclusion of the tuberculosis class, but Abrahams and Hausfeld presented strong medical evidence to support their inclusion, which the court endorsed. Certifying the class means that the litigation can seek compensation for the miners as a group in a more efficient and streamlined manner than if the miners had to bring thousands of individual actions...

This decision by the High Court is a crucial step in the path to justice for potentially hundreds of thousands of mine workers and the families of deceased mine workers who contracted silicosis and tuberculosis due to their employment in poorly maintained working environments of the gold mining industry of South Africa, said Charles Abrahams. We continue to believe it is the only feasible method for sick gold mine workers to have access to justice.

The opinion explicitly and robustly recognizes that the class action legal tool is most needed and most appropriate when the poor and underprivileged seek justice against institutions in society they could never challenge on their own, said Richard Lewis of Hausfeld...

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Article
13 May 2016

Analysis: Judgment day for silicosis class action application

Author: Greg Nicolson, Daily Maverick (So. Africa)

In courtroom 11E this morning, judges of the South Gauteng High Court will announce their decision on whether to certify the class action, Bongani Nkala and 55 Others v Harmony Gold Mining Company Ltd and 31 Others. Essentially, it will decide whether hundreds of thousands of gold miners and their families can together sue gold mining companies for damages after contracting silicosis and tuberculosis through work.

If the judges decide the class action can proceed, it will be the biggest class action ever certified in South Africa and could lead to a level of justice for miners whose health was allegedly put at risk for decades despite the industry's knowledge of how to reduce the likelihood of inhaling silica dust…

The case is both about compensation and justice.

Those trying to push for compensation through a class action…believe 32 gold mining companies are liable for failing to protect employees…

“While the mining companies will defend the legal claims made against them, protracted litigation is not in the interests of any of the parties. One part of the proposed solution would be to establish a legacy fund that will supplement the statutory compensation to which mineworkers who have contracted silicosis are entitled from the state, and which some have already received,” said a recent statement from six leaders of mining companies involved in the case…

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