South African gold miners and workers have reached an out of court settlement in a case where the workers who contracted silicosis while working for the firms were seeking for compensation.
Silicosis is an incurable lung disease caused by inhaling dust from gold-bearing rocks.It causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough and chest pains, and also leaves sufferers highly susceptible to tuberculosis.
Last years, the gold producers had set aside 5 billion Rands to settle the lawsuit.
The mining companies include Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, African Rainbow Minerals(ARM), Sibanye-Stillwater, AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American.
Beneficiaries of the compensation include miners who worked for the mining companies at any point from 1965.
This explains why Anglo American, which no longer has any interests in gold mining, and ARM, which no longer operates gold mines in South Africa, were named in the suit.
A law suit was first filed in 2012 and allowed to proceed in 2016. In the suit, the workers say they were negligently exposed to large amounts of silica dust over decades, causing silicosis and pulmonary tuberculosis.
The settlement puts an end to to what observers have described as the country’s “largest and most expensive class action ever against mining companies.”
The parties in the case agreed on out-of-court settlement to avoid a lengthy and expensive litigation process.
“The settlement was the product of negotiation and compromise, but we believe this is a beneficial settlement,” said Carina du Toit, a lawyer with the Legal Resources Centre, one of the groups representing the miners.