Gold miner silicosis litigation (re So. Africa)
On 21 December 2012 attorney Richard Spoor filed a motion in South Africa court seeking class certification for as many as 17,000 ex-gold miners suffering from the lung disease silicosis. The proposed class action named 30 gold mining companies as defendants, including African Rainbow Minerals, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony Gold. The plaintiffs allege that the defendant companies knew of the dangers posed to the miners by exposing them to silica dust and that defendants failed to take adequate measures to protect the workers from this exposure.
On 31 October 2013 the High Court of Johannesburg ruled that all of the pending lawsuits against gold mining companies regarding silicosis may be consolidated into one action. The High Court started to hear the class certification motion on 12 October 2015.
On 13 May 2016, South Africa's High Court allowed the class action lawsuit. The companies appealed the decision. On 24 June, the High Court rejected the appeal on the basis that the certification of a class action is a procedural step and therefore, not appealable. In September 2016, the South African Supreme Court of Appeal granted the mining companies leave to appeal the class action certification.
- "South African court allows silicosis class action suit against gold firms", TJ Strydom & Zimasa Mpemnyama, Reuters, 13 May 2016
- “Ex-miners seek silicosis class action vs. South African firms”, Reuters, 28 Dec 2012
- Richard Spoor Inc. Attorneys [counsel for the plaintiffs]:Gold Miner Silicosis Litigation
- [PDF] Nkala, et al. v. Harmony Gold Mining Company Limited, et al. – Notice of Motion, 21 Dec 2012 [application for class certification]
- PDF] Nkala, et al. v. Harmony Gold Mining Company Limited, et al. – Draft Particulars of Claim, 21 Dec 2012
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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...
Author: Pete Lewis, GroundUp (South Africa)
"Setback for gold miners’ silicosis claims", 22 Sep 2016
South Africa’s six biggest gold mining companies have been given leave to appeal against the court decision in May to allow mineworkers sick with silicosis and TB to bring a class action against them. The Supreme Court of Appeal has granted the mining companies leave to appeal on all aspects of the certification by the South Gauteng High Court of the “big bang” common law class action brought by miners and former miners...The action concerns some 250,000 to 500,000 sick mineworkers or former mineworkers and their families, spread out over the entire Southern African region. They will now have to wait while the appeal process, which could go all the way to the Constitutional Court, is concluded...
So. Africa: Gold mining companies appeal to Supreme Court over class action decision in silicosis lawsuit
Author: Cecilia Jamasmie, Mining.com
“South African gold firms file plea to appeal lung disease class action”, 15 Jul 2016
Six South African gold miners filed petitions on Friday to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to review a May ruling allowing the country’s biggest-ever class action to go ahead. African Rainbow Minerals…, Anglo American South Africa…, AngloGold Ashanti…, Gold Fields…, Harmony Gold…and Sibanye Gold…, are hoping the SCA will overturn the country's High Court decision to allow two separate classes — one for silicosis and the other one for tuberculosis…[T]he firms said they were conscious of concerns that the appeal would delay a final verdict. However, they noted they believe a review was necessary as the May judgment "addresses a number of highly complex and important issues."…The suit, first filed in 2012, alleges the named companies knew of the dangers posed to miners by silica dust for more than a century and lists 12 specific forms of neglect and endangerment...
Author: Sarika Doodnath, Helen Suzman Foundation (So. Africa)
…The silicosis and tuberculosis case was brought in 2004 and it and has still not been resolved. However, the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has agreed to the first class action for sick employees in South Africa, allowing these workers to claim from several mining companies…This court case will be historic for the mining industry as well as for workers’ rights in South Africa. In the Johannesburg High Court in October 2015, it was said that the 32 gold companies involved that owned or operated 82 different gold mines knew that they were putting the miners’ lives at risk for more than a century…Each mining company is held liable separately for any of the damages they caused…These mining companies together have formed the Occupational Lung Disease working group to deal which issues such as these. The claims go back decades and also involve thousands of former miners from neighbouring countries such as Swaziland…The suit has been taken to court again. May's class action is believed to have paved the way to justice for these miners. The size and the scope of the class action is unprecedented…The gold mining companies have challenged almost every aspect of the judgement…[Refers to African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Gold]
Author: Observatoire des multinationales (France)
« Les mineurs sud-africains atteints de silicose lancent une « class action » géante pour obtenir justice », 22 juin 2016
En Afrique du Sud, des milliers de mineurs ou de familles de mineurs atteints de silicose ont été autorisés à lancer une gigantesque actions de groupe contre trente compagnies minières. Le montant potentiel des réparations en jeu se chiffre en milliards, à la hauteur du drame humain qu’a représenté l’exploitation des ouvriers noirs dans les mines sud-africaines, sous l’apartheid et jusqu’à aujourd’hui…
L’article rappelle que les risques de la silicose ainsi que les solutions (masques et aération des mines) étaient connus depuis le début du XXe siècle, mais que rien n’a été fait…
Author: Franny Rabkin, Business Day Live (So. Africa)
“Gold mining companies refused leave to appeal silicosis judgment”, 24 Jun 2016
The High Court in Johannesburg on Friday refused gold mining companies leave to appeal its landmark silicosis judgment, saying the certification of a class action — a procedural step — is "not appealable"…[T]he judgment clears the way for the silicosis litigation to go ahead…The class action could mean billions of rand worth of claims on behalf of the 17,000 to 500,000 mine workers and former mineworkers suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis…[T]he judges acknowledged the case was unprecedented and complex, but an appeal would unduly delay the class action from going ahead, which could lead to the mineworkers suffering irreparable harm…The applications for leave to appeal were brought by Gold Fields, AngloGold Ashanti, Anglo American SA, DRDGold, African Rainbow Minerals and Harmony Gold. Argument was heard on Thursday.
So. Africa: Court decision allowing silicosis class action against gold mining firms to proceed gives hope for compensation to miners
Author: Jason Burke, Guardian (UK)
"South African miners given hope in battle for lung damage payouts", 20 Jun 2016
Vuyani Elliot Dwadube…came from his home in a village hundreds of miles away to work in the gold mines of South Africa’s Free State…
His demands are straightforward: he wants fair compensation from his former employers for the damage done to his lungs during the years he spent drilling ore in narrow tunnels deep underground.
Dwadube suffers from silicosis, scarring of the lungs caused by fine dust inhaled underground…
A groundbreaking court decision last month brought new hope to men such as Dwadube. A South African judge said human rights lawyers could launch an unprecedented “class action” that, if successful, would force more than 30 mine companies to pay compensation to everyone they have employed since 1965 who has had silicosis…[The companies have appealed the decision]
Some mining houses recognise that current compensation for victims of silicosis is inadequate and are eager to reach a settlement, said Alan Fine, a spokesman for six gold companies…shortly after the court decision to allow collective action was made public…
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...
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…
- Related stories: Gold miner silicosis litigation (re So. Africa) So. Africa: Court allows silicosis & tuberculosis class action lawsuits against gold mining companies So. Africa: Gold mining companies to appeal silicosis & tuberculosis class action certification Show moreShow less
- Related in-depth areas: Latest Legal News
- Related companies: African Rainbow Minerals Anglo American AngloGold Ashanti Gold Fields Harmony Gold
Gold Fields : Hausfeld Announces Class Action Certified for South African Gold Miners in Landmark Case
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...