Historic silicosis class action settlement reached between mines and mineworkers
3 May 2018
Today, 03 May 2018, the Legal Resources Centre, Abrahams Kiewitz Inc and Richard Spoor Attorneys, on behalf of thousands of mineworkers, reached a historic class action settlement with the Occupational Lung Disease (OLD) Working Group, which will see compensation paid to eligible mine workers suffering from silicosis and/or tuberculosis.
This is the first class action settlement of its kind in South Africa and a result of three years of extensive negotiations between the representative attorneys and the OLD Working Group – representing African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony, Sibanye Stillwater and Pan African Resources.
The settlement agreement was signed at Sunnyside Park Hotel, Parktown, Johannesburg. It must be emphasised that the signing of the settlement does not mean that finality has been reached. The agreement must still be approved by the Johannesburg High Court. Approval will take place in a number of weeks.
The Legal Resources Centre and representative attorneys acted on behalf of mineworkers who worked in these companies’ mines from 1965 to date. The mineworkers contracted silicosis and/or tuberculosis during this time. This settlement makes provision for compensation to be paid to these mine workers and/or their dependents.
National Director of the Legal Resources Centre, Janet Love, states that, “This settlement marks the end of a long road for the LRC, starting in 2003 which led to the Blom/President Steyn Mine silicosis litigation. The Blom/President Steyn Mine matter was the first case on silicosis in South Africa. It served as a test case to establish the liability of Anglo American SA as a parent company. It laid the foundation for Mbuyisa Neale and Leigh Day to negotiate the establishment of the Q(h)ubeka Trust in March 2016 and it provided the primary evidentiary basis to launch the class action.”
This settlement provides an opportunity to receive a medical examination and much-needed compensation for ex-mine workers and has allowed an alternate to extended litigation and the risks inherent to that approach.
Carina du Toit, the attorney from the LRC who represented the clients states that, “The settlement is the product of very long hours and very hard work. There was a real good faith attempt from both sides to find a solution that compensates as many mineworkers and the surviving dependants of silicotic mineworkers as possible. The settlement is the product of commercial negotiation and compromise, but we believe this is a beneficial settlement for the mineworkers. We have consulted extensively with our clients and they are also convinced this is a good settlement.”
Compensation will be administered by the Tshiamiso Trust, which will be established following court approval and will be responsible for the distribution of claims. There will also be a call centre established to record claims and provide information on making claims. All the information on the Trust and call centre will be made available to the public.
We call on the public to be patient while these systems are finalised.
The Legal Resources Centre wishes to thank Legal Aid South Africa for the continued financial support they have provided in this matter. Legal Aid South Africa’s commitment to funding precedent-setting matters that promote the rights of communities has made redress possible in this matter, ensuring that the rights of the mineworkers and their dependents are upheld in this historic class action settlement.
Issued by Claire Martens, Communications Officer, Legal Resource Centre, 3 May 2018