South Africa Gold Miners With Silicosis File Class-Action Motion

Thousands of mine workers who contracted silicosis, a lung disease, are seeking damages from 30 gold companies including AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., Harmony Gold Mining Co. and Anglo American South Africa Ltd.

Richard Spoor, a human rights lawyer in South Africa, filed an application for class certification of an action for damages in Johannesburg’s South Gauteng High Court “on behalf of tens of thousands of current and former gold mine workers, as well as dependents of deceased workers, who contracted silicosis” as a result of their work in gold mines, according to an e-mail today from Spoor’s office.

The applicants are Bongani Nkala and 30 other former mine workers, who contracted silicosis while employed at the mines, according to Spoor’s statement.

South Africa’s highest court in March 2011 cleared the way for damages to be sought from gold companies by ruling that former miner Thembekile Mankayi can pursue a claim against AngloGold. The court rejected the company’s argument that Mankayi, who died a week before the ruling, wasn’t entitled to seek damages because he had already received a state payout.

An estimated 350,000 to 500,000 former mine workers may suffer from occupational lung diseases in southern Africa, in countries such as Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi and Swaziland, Cape Town-based lawfirm Abrahams Kiewitz Attorneys said in August, without giving a source of the estimates.

In a separate case, Anglo American Plc was sued in 2004 by 18 former miners at its President Steyn mine in the Free State province. The case is set for arbitration in September next year.

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