• Ex-mineworkers must be medically evaluated before payment made
  • Case is separate to class action certified earlier this month

Former South African mineworkers who won a 500 million-rand ($32 million) payout from Anglo American Plc’s South African unit and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. for contracting lung diseases may have to wait as long as four years to receive their full compensation.

The former gold miners will be medically evaluated and paid compensation depending on if they have silicosis or silico-tuberculosis and the severity of their condition, Leigh Day, the London-based law firm that brought the case, said in a statement Friday. The case involves 4,365 ex-employees and relatives of deceased workers.

“Individual claimants who are found to have silicosis will receive differing amounts, not an average figure,” Leigh Day said. Those with the disease will receive an initial payout and then possibly more once the whole group has been evaluated. “Completion of the whole process is expected to take three to four years.”

The former mineworkers reached the settlement after suing the mining companies, who didn’t admit liability, for providing unsafe conditions in which to work. South Africa was the world’s top gold producer for a century to 2007 and is the source of a third of all bullion in existence. The country had loose labor laws and environmental regulations during apartheid, or whites-only rule, that ended in 1994.

In a separate lawsuit, other ex-mineworkers won the right to bring a class-action lawsuit against 32 mining companies earlier this month. They too are seeking damages from mining companies for lung diseases they contracted while working at their operations.

Silicosis, a lung disease caused by inhaling dust from mines, causes scar tissue in the lungs, increasing vulnerability to tuberculosis that can kill more than half of sufferers if not properly treated.

As much as 60 percent of the 4,365 former gold miners in the Leigh Day case may be found to have silicosis, the law firm said.

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