The class action suit will represent thousands of 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 court also allowed a class action to go ahead on behalf of miners who contracted tuberculosis in the mines.
The list of defendants in the case include Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, AngloGold Ashanti, Sibanye Gold , African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) and Anglo American, which have formed the Occupational Lung Disease (OLD) Working Group to deal with such issues.
[quote]Reports indicate that 56 workers and family members currently form part of the court application but the number of workers who could benefit from the ruling is estimated at more than 200 000.
Silicosis is caused by inhaling silica dust from gold-bearing rocks. It causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough and chest pains, and makes people highly susceptible to tuberculosis.
OLD Working Group responds
Those companies comprising the OLD Working Group are studying the court’s decision. Each company is yet to decide whether to lodge an appeal against the silicosis finding.
Either way, it should be noted that the finding does not represent a view on the merits of the cases brought by claimants.
The companies remain of the view that there are issues related to compensation and medical care for occupational lung disease that need to be addressed through engagement between stakeholders, with a view to designing and implementing a comprehensive solution that is both fair to past, present and future gold mining employees, and also sustainable for the sector. They therefore remain committed to achieving these goals.
The Working Group and its members will not comment further on the matter until it has had the opportunity to properly study the full judgement.