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So. Africa: Gold producers reach $400 mln. settlement with mine workers in silicosis lawsuit

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Article
9 May 2018

Silicosis deal offers way forward for South African mining

Author: David Thomas, African Business Magazine

...[F]ollowing one of the largest class action suits in the nation’s history, the untold thousands of South African and migrant workers blighted by silicosis have finally received a small measure of justice...[S]ix of South Africa’s largest mining companies agreed to a historic $400m fund for...workers stricken with lung diseases from their time labouring on the world’s largest gold-bearing reef.  Lawyers say that the compromise agreement, six years after workers first sought compensation, avoids the necessity of further lengthy and damaging litigation and will give workers and their families speedy access to the funds.  For the industry, the final agreement represents a satisfactory conclusion...Yet despite the industry’s welcome recognition of historic worker neglect, the monumental tasks of implementing reform...remain a work in progress...South Africa’s mining industry has changed markedly in the last two decades...The industry has played its role, overseeing safety reforms...Yet...[t]he industry lobby recorded 81 fatalities between January and November, the bulk of them at the deep-level gold and platinum mines...While improvements have been made...miners’ accommodation...remains rudimentary...The sensible and just recognition of ex-miners’ silicosis claims offers a model for how the industry can engage with its critics and begin to tackle the legacy of its troubled past...[A] fresh start is an opportunity that neither government, organised labour, nor the mining industry can afford to waste.

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Article
3 May 2018

Mining companies to fork out about R5-billion to mineworkers after silicosis settlement

Author: Nico Gous, Sunday Times (So. Africa)

...[A]n historic class action settlement was reached on Thursday with those suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.  The settlement was the first of its kind in South Africa...The draft settlement...will provide a medical examination and compensation to mineworkers who worked in gold mines from March 12‚ 1965‚ to date.  The High Court in Johannesburg will now review the draft settlement.  Once it has been approved‚ a trust deed will be set up...The parties compromised and reached a settlement out of concern for the “inevitably lengthy and expensive litigation”...Mineworkers’ benefits will increase annually in line with the consumer price index (CPI) from the third year of the trust.  Mining companies agreed to contribute R845-million in administration costs to the trust...

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Article
3 May 2018

South Africa miners reach $400 million silicosis settlement with mining companies

Author: Ed Stoddard, Patricia Aruo, Reuters

South African gold producers agreed a 5 billion rand ($400 million) class action settlement on with law firms representing thousands of miners who contracted the fatal lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis, officials said...The most far-reaching class action settlement ever reached in South Africa follows a long legal battle by miners to win compensation for illnesses they say they contracted over decades because of negligence in health and safety.  The six companies involved had already set aside the settlement amount in provisions in previous financial statements and it should not affect future earnings, unless the number of claimants who come forward exceed the current provisions.  Estimates for the number of potential claimants range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.  Three smaller gold producers are not party to the settlement and the class action against them will continue...The settlement is broken into three parts and a trust will have 12 years to track down the claimants and distribute the funds...The companies involved are Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, African Rainbow Minerals, Sibanye-Stillwater, AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American South Africa...

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Article
3 May 2018

South African Gold Producers Reach Lung-Disease Settlement

Author: Felix Njini, Jef Feeley, Bloomberg (USA)

Anglo American Plc, Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd. and other mining companies agreed to resolve a lawsuit filed by workers who said they contracted deadly lung diseases in South African gold mines in the country’s largest class-action settlement deal.  The agreement provides for compensation for all eligible workers suffering from silicosis or tuberculosis who worked in the companies’ mines at any point since March 1965, the parties said in a statement...The six producers, which also include AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. and Gold Fields Ltd., last year set aside about 5 billion rand ($390 million) to settle the lawsuit.  The settlement will be submitted to South Africa’s South Gauteng High Court for ratification...There is no limit on the number of potential claimants, the parties said in a statement.  The agreement was reached following three years of negotiations and is the first class-action settlement of its kind in South Africa...The mining companies were represented by the Occupational Lung Disease Working Group, while Richard Spoor Inc, Abrahams Kiewitz Inc., Motley Rice, Hausfeld LLP and the Legal Resources Centre represented the class members...Under the deal, the companies will set up a trust to fund silicosis-treatment programs in South Africa and other countries where miners migrated from, including Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe, according to a statement.  Ten classes of miners are eligible for medical assessment and treatment...Families of miners who died also are eligible for compensation, under the settlement...

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