Gold miner silicosis litigation (re So. Africa)

GoldOn 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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11 March 2018

Silicosis lawsuit settlement expected within 6 weeks

Author: Ed Stoddard, Reuters

South African gold producers will likely reach a settlement within six weeks in a lawsuit over a fatal lung disease that companies have set aside R5 billion in provisions for, a lawyer and industry group said on Sunday...A spokesman for the working group on Occupational Lung Disease (OLD)...said it was is “hopeful” the settlement can be reached in that timeframe.  The settlement would still need to be approved by a High Court before it was implemented...The suit was launched around six years ago on behalf of miners suffering from silicosis, contracted by inhaling silica dust in gold mines...The six companies involved are Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, African Rainbow Minerals, Sibanye-Stillwater, AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American...

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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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4 January 2018

So. Africa: Trust handling compensation on behalf of Anglo American & AngloGold Ashanti for more than 4000 ex-miners affected by silicosis says over $8 million disbursed to 963 claimants in 19 months

Author: Qhubeka Trust (South Africa)

"South Africa: Q(h)ubeka Trust has awarded R102 million in compensation to Silicosis sufferers in 19 months", 20 Dec 2017

In the 19 months since the Q(h)ubeka Trust was established, it has awarded approximately R102 million in compensation to qualifying ex-mineworkers suffering from Silica related illnesses. The Trust was founded in March 2016 on the back of the successful conclusion of a lengthy compensation battle by attorneys representing ex-mineworkers who have contracted Silicosis while working for various mines owned by Anglo American South Africa Limited and AngloGold Ashanti Limited. The claimants in the settlement are 4 365 ex-mineworkers from South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho who may be suffering from Silica-related occupational lung diseases as a result of the failure by the mines to ensure adequate protection against the disease for their mineworkers...According to Dr Kisting-Cairncross [Trust Chairman], the R102m awarded to claimants as at 30 November 2017 is a significant achievement, particularly given that locating many of the original claimants has been difficult due to the fact that many contact numbers are no longer valid...To date, approximately 2 350 of the 4 365 claimants have undergone these medical assessments, but less than half of these have been determined to be suffering from Silicosis. Another significant hurdle the Trust faces in determining compensation eligibility is establishing that claimants worked for at least two years at Anglo American South Africa and AngloGold Ashanti Limited-owned mines...

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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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22 November 2017

Gold mining firms set aside $360 million for South Africa silicosis law suit

Author: Wendell Roelf, Reuters

"Gold mining firms set aside $360 million for South Africa silicosis law suit", 22 Nov 2017

Six gold mining firms, including Anglo American, have made a 5 billion rand ($361 million) provision to settle a class action law suit with thousands of miners who contracted fatal lung diseases while working in South African mines, an industry document said on Wednesday...

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28 July 2017

So. Africa: Mining companies set aside millions for potential settlement of gold miners’ silicosis lawsuit

Author: Kevin Crowley , Bloomberg Technology

"Anglo, Gold Miners Set Aside Millions for Lung Disease Claims", 27 Jul 2017

South African mining firms including Anglo American Plc are preparing a multimillion-dollar settlement with as many as 100,000 former workers who suffer from debilitating and deadly lung diseases caused by exposure to dust from working underground.

Anglo has set aside $101 million in preparation for a potential settlement, while Gold Fields Ltd. expects to pay about $30 million to end a class action lawsuit, the companies said in separate statements Thursday. AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., Sibanye Gold Ltd. and Harmony Gold Mining Co. are among 32 respondents named in the suit, which would be the country’s biggest class action.

“Significant progress has been made towards a settlement, such that companies are feeling comfortable enough to quantify their liabilities,” Richard Spoor, a lawyer representing claimants, said in a phone interview. “It’s still a process but I’m fairly optimistic we will be able to conclude something within the course of this year.”…

South Africa’s High Court last year ruled that there was enough evidence of unsafe working practices to allow a class action case to proceed and that as many as 500,000 former workers could be included…


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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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18 May 2017

So. Africa: Settlement in silicosis class action lawsuit by mineworkers against gold mining companies expected by year-end

Author: Jade Davenport, on Mining Weekly (So. Africa)

"Settlement likely by year-end as parties in silicosis case pursue out-of-court option", 5 May 2017

Mining companies facing a class action suit from mineworkers who developed silicosis on South Africa’s gold mines are expected to reach an out-of-court settlement before the close of the year. The class estimated 100 000 former and current mineworkers who developed the disease...after 1965...A settlement...could be a significant victory for both parties, given that, in a case as complex as this one, the legal class action process could drag on for up to 15 years...[Silicosis] is caused by the inhalation of microscopic dust particles of crystalised silica – a mineral prevalent in South African gold orebodies – which, over an extended period, causes scarring of the lung tissue, making it difficult for the patient to breathe...[Sibanye Gold, Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, AngloGold Ashanti, Anglo American and African Rainbow Minerals are part of a] working group...addressing issues relating to the monitoring and medical care of mineworkers, and compensation paid to those infected...

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16 February 2017

So. Africa: Mineworkers likely to settle lawsuit over compensation for health damage against gold mining companies

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

"Silicosis: Mining companies point to settlement", 15 Feb 2017

...Occupational Lung Disease Working Group chairman Graham Briggs was confident a settlement would be reached this year with mineworkers who have launched class action suits against more than two dozen gold mining companies...If the cases proceed in court they could take over a decade to resolve...The Working Group represents six large mining companies, African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony, Goldfields and Sibanye...Briggs was confident a settlement might be reached in 2017 because he said engagements between the claimants’ lawyers, unions and government had been positive...Charles Abrahams...which has been working on the class action...said settlement discussions continued in good faith.  According to representatives of both mineworkers and mining companies, current compensation discussions include potentially compensating workers who have contracted silicosis and tuberculosis, as well as the dependents of employees who have passed away.  Abrahams said it would be in his clients’ best interest if a decent settlement is reached out of court...For now, it seems an out-of-court settlement is likely...

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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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