Update: South Africa’s highest court allows class action case against Mining companies.

This report is part of our former “Harmful Cases” documentation, where we continuously and concisely recorded human rights violations, violations of international law or environmental destruction caused by companies.

About 500 000 former and existing miners have now been given the opportunity to jointly sue 32 mining companies for damages in the millions of dollars, thanks to the recent decision of the court in Johannesburg. The initial case was brought forward by a group of 60 miners but is set to expand to cover thousands of elderly men from the poorest rural areas of South Africa as well as Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi and Mozambique (( http://www.mining.com/south-africa-allows-biggest-ever-class-action-lawsuit-against-gold-giants-to-go-ahead/?utm_source=digest-en-mining-160513&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=digest, 5/13/2016, accessed on 05.17.2016 )), (( http://www.bdlive.co.za/national/2016/05/13/court-gives-go-ahead-to-silicosis-class-action-suit-against-gold-mining-companies , 5/13/2016, accessed on 05.17.2016 )).

The workers have lodged the case as they claim the companies knowingly exposed them to health hazards without adequate protective measures for decades. The period for the claim covers the period from 1965 to today and applies to 82 different mines. Hundreds of thousands of people are suffering from the incurable disease silicosis (also known as pneumoconiosis) or tuberculosis, as a result of work in the mining industry ((http://www.nzz.ch/wirtschaft/wirtschaftspolitik/suedafrika-sammelklage-von-minenarbeitern-ld.82598, 5/14/2016, accessed on 17.05.2016)).

Among the 32 companies concerned is the largest gold producer in Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, and other large mining companies such as Anglo American, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Gold and African Rainbow Minerals (( http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/class-action-certified-for-south-african-gold-miners-in-landmark-case-300268316.html , 5/13/2016, accessed on 05.17.2016)).

Facing Finance reported on this case previously in October, 2015.