Silicosis payouts to start soon – Minerals Council
Publish date: 10 February 2020
Issue Number: 859
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa
Miners who contracted the fatal lung disease silicosis, while toiling in SA’s gold mines, are soon to start receiving compensation. The Minerals Council SA announced at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town that the first payments should be made in the second quarter of 2020. Beyond that, the process is expected to take years to complete, notes a Daily Maverick report. The settlement in the class action suit brought against the gold industry by human rights lawyer Richard Spoor was reached almost two years ago to the tune of R5bn. The class action was initially launched in 2012 on behalf of miners who contracted the incurable disease from inhaling silica dust from gold-bearing rocks.
The number of former mineworkers who may seek to claim from the fund could be as high as a m i l l i o n, though the companies expect the number of those actually eligible to claim will be closer to 100 000, says a Business Day report. ‘Quite extraordinarily, only three people opted out,’ Michael Murray, chair of the Occupational Lung Disease Working Group that represents the companies (African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye-Stillwater) said. ‘Had there been more than 2 000, the settlement agreement could have been nullified by the mining companies.’ Those who do not opt out will benefit from the settlement, but being part of the agreement potentially takes away their right to later sue any of the companies. ‘This was the most extraordinarily complex negotiation you could you ever imagine. There’s certainly no settlement like it in SA that’s ever taken place, and I’d venture to say anywhere in the world,’ says Murray. ‘This settlement goes beyond anything the courts could ever have achieved … It’s a classic example of taking a dispute and making it something that both parties can benefit from in a way that they wouldn’t have otherwise.’