The Occupational Lung Disease Working Group — made up of African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Gold — has noted the decisions made by the SCA to grant the petition for leave to appeal applied for in July against all aspects of the silicosis class action judgement of the South Gauteng High Court delivered in May.
The High Court, in its judgment, certified the establishment of two separate classes for silicosis and tuberculosis and also changed the common law in respect of general damages claims. The High Court granted leave to appeal only in respect of the latter point.
The petitions to the SCA were against the certification of the two separate classes for silicosis and tuberculosis.
The next step is for the companies to file their notices of appeal.
In July, the gold miners each filed petitions to the Supreme Court of Appeal for leave to appeal against the class action certification judgement delivered in relation to workers suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis. Between them, the gold mines have contested almost every aspect of the judgment made by the South Gauteng High Court.
While the companies are conscious of concerns that the appeal processes will delay finalisation of the matters, they remain steadfast in their appeal because the judgment addresses a number of highly complex and important issues that, if successful, could see compensation for tens of thousands of affected mine workers.
The High Court itself found that the scope and magnitude of the proposed claims unprecedented in South Africa because the class action would address novel and complex issues of fact and law.
It is the first time anywhere in the world that an entire industry has been sued, rather than a single defendant.
The Working Group remains of the view that achieving a mutually acceptable comprehensive settlement which is both fair to past, present and future employees, and sustainable for the sector, is preferable to protracted litigation. The Working Group will continue with its efforts – which have been ongoing for more than a year – to find common ground with stakeholders, including the claimants’ legal representatives.