Anglo American Settles 23 South Africa Lung-Disease Claims

Anglo American Plc’s South African unit reached a cash settlement with 23 miners who contracted lung diseases when working at its operations, the first such accord in the nation, lawyers led by Leigh Day & Co. said.

Leigh Day sued Anglo American in 2004 on behalf of 18 former miners and widows of workers at its President Steyn mine in the Free State Province. Today’s settlement, which is confidential, includes the claimants from President Steyn and five others who worked on other Anglo mines in the Free State province, the London-based firm said in an e-mailed statement. Seven of the 23 claimants have died since 2004, it said.

The settlement is separate from a class-action suit the company faces. In August, lawyers for more than 25,000 miners and the dependents of deceased workers who contracted silicosis and tuberculosis while working on South African gold mines filed an application to combine three pending cases against producers. The joint litigations against the companies, which owned or operated 82 mines since 1956, were separately lodged in South African courts in 2012.

“Agreeing to settle this long-standing litigation is in the best interests of the plaintiffs, their families, Anglo American South Africa and its wider stakeholders,” Khanyisile Kweyama, an executive director at Anglo’s South African unit, said in a statement. The company denies any liability in the class-action proceedings, according to the statement.

‘No Precedent’

The agreement is unlikely to affect the outcome of the class action and other individual claims, said Sayi Nindi, an attorney at the Legal Resources Centre who also acts on behalf of silicosis sufferers.

“Legally there is no precedent,” Nindi said in an interview.

Silicosis is caused by prolonged exposure to silica dust in mines, leaving incurable scar tissue in lungs, making it hard to breathe. It also heightens the risk of contracting tuberculosis.

In a separate case, more than 100 former miners of AngloGold Ashanti Ltd.’s Vaal Reefs operations are pursuing individual claims against the company, of which 31 were filed last year with the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, Leigh Day attorney Richard Meeran told reporters today in Johannesburg. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 3, Meeran said.

AngloGold spokesman Chris Nthite had no immediate comment when contacted by phone.

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