African Miners Seek Reparations for Silicosis Claims

In August 2004, a group of 15 former miners, (which was later increased to 18 plus family members of deceased miners), led by lawyers Leigh Day & Co., filed individual suits against mining giant, Anglo American South Africa Ltd., after their employment with the company led to the chronic and debilitating disease, silicosis.[1] In March 2013, the case was elevated to a class-action lawsuit. [2] The case was ultimately settled confidentially in September 2013.[3]
In March 2011, South Africa’s highest court permitted a former mineworker to file a 2.7 million-rand silicosis claim against AngloGold Ashanti, opening the door for subsequent lawsuits. In December 2012, former gold miners and their dependents led by human rights lawyer, Richard Spoor, filed South Africa’s largest-ever class action lawsuit against 30 mining companies, including Anglo American South Africa Ltd. (Anglo American’s South African subsidiary). The lawsuit claims the company knowingly exposed workers to hazardous mine dust, causing them to develop the life-threatening respiratory disease, silicosis. Over 200,000 former miners potentially suffer from the disease. Workers could possibly seek R1 million (approx. $117,000) each in damages.[4] The case has since taken on thousands of claimants. In October 2013, the case was merged with a similar class-action case involving over 3,000 claimants lodged by Abrahams Kiewitz Attorneys increasing the total number of respondents to 32. [5] Currently, respondents to the case include controversial companies like Harmony Gold Mining Company Limited, AngloGold Ashanti Limited, Gold Fields Operations Limited, and African Rainbow Minerals. [6]

According to Spoor, fewer than 5% of eligible former miners with tuberculosis and similar lung conditions receive compensation. Many of those who attain compensation, receive only negligible sums. [7]

[6] Richard Spoor Inc. (2013, October 31): Consolidation Order, South Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg, 17 October 2013), accessed 16.12.2013