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Gold miners file petition against silicosis judgment

Gold miners from the Occupational Lung Disease (OLD) Working Group each filed petitions to the Supreme Court of Appeal for leave to appeal against the class action certification judgement delivered in the South Gauteng High Court on 13 May in relation to workers suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The companies are made up of African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Gold.

The High Court certified the establishment of two separate classes for silicosis and tuberculosis and also changed the common law in respect of general damages claims. The court granted leave to appeal only in respect of the latter point.

The class action suit will represent thousands of gold miners who contracted the fatal lung disease silicosis while working underground. It stretches back decades and includes non-South African miners who contracted the disease at the time.

The companies say they are conscious of concerns that the appeal processes will delay finalisation of the matters.

The reason they site for the appeal is because the judgment addresses a number of highly complex and important issues.

The High Court itself found that the scope and magnitude of the proposed claims is unprecedented in South Africa and that the class action would address novel and complex issues of fact and law.

In an attempt to shorten any delay due to an appeal process, it is permissible to request that the appeals be dealt with on an expedited basis the gold miners also say.

The companies intend to do this, should leave to appeal be granted by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

In addition, 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 on-going for more than a year – to find common ground with stakeholders, including the claimants’ legal representatives.