South African Gold Mines Sued By Former Miners Who Contacted Lung Diseases
May 14, 2016 04:32 AM EDT
Thousands of former mineworkers get permission from a South African court to pursue a class action suit for damages against their former employees for contracting lung diseases while working during the mines' operations.
Present and former underground mineworkers who developed the disease called silicosis including pulmonary tuberculosis comprise the class as well as the families of employees who already died from the disease, said Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo, as reported by Bloomberg.
"Class action is the only realistic option through which most mineworkers can assert" their constitutional rights. He added that if it hadn't been authorized, "impoverished, indigent workers won't be able to access justice."
Silicosis is contacted when dust from mines are inhaled causing scar tissue in the lungs. The lungs then become open from the attack of tuberculosis that could be fatal to more than half of sufferers if not immediately and properly treated.
According to The Guardian, the defendants are constituted of global mining companies from Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Gold and African Rainbow Minerals (ARM). These mining firms created the Occupational Lung Disease (OLD) Working Group to deal with such concerns. They stated that the judgment is being reviewed and would decide at a later date if the verdict will be appealed.
In South African law, the class action suits have small introductory and have their roots in 2011 landmark ruling by the Constitutional Court that enabled miners with lung diseases to sue their employers for damages.
"We are hopeful and we trust that the court will arrive at an appropriate decision," said Charles Abrahams, one of the lawyers representing the miners. As reported by Mail Online, companies are not directly commenting on the case but in March the OLD Working Group said: "While the mining companies will defend the legal claims made against them, protracted litigation is not in the interests of any of the parties."
The claims that were decades ago include not just South Africans but also miners from neighboring countries such as Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland reaching to thousands. The ruling on Friday is different from the $30 million settlement for silicosis that affected 4,400 miners from Anglo American and AngloGold in March.