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Anglo Settle R500 Mil Legal Silicosis Battle
07 March 2016
Anglo Settle R500 Mil Legal Silicosis Battle

Justice has been served for thousands of former mineworkers who suffer from silicosis and silico-tuberculosis after AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American agreed to an estimated R500 million out-of-court settlement on Friday, following a long-running legal battle.

About 4 400 claimants, the bulk of whom came from the Eastern Cape, sued the firms for dust-related lung diseases, silicosis and silico-tuberculosis, which they claim were contracted from working in unsafe conditions in the mines.

The claims were instituted from 2012 and were completely separate from the silicosis class-action proceedings that are currently awaiting a decision on certification from the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

AngloGold and Anglo American reached the settlement without the companies admitting liability. A London-based human rights lawyer who represented the miners, Richard Meeran of Leigh Day, said on the weekend that the settlement was a triumph for justice and accountability.

Financial relief

“It will bring much-needed financial relief to the victims and their families. This settlement scheme provides a model and, we hope, the necessary impetus for an industrywide settlement for all gold mining silicosis victims.”

Zanele Mbuyisa, a lawyer at Mbuyisa Neale who also represented former mineworkers, said silicosis and tuberculosis caused widespread suffering and misery for former miners, their families and communities.

“Sick ex-miners have effectively been left on the scrap heap by the mines and thousands of silicosis victims must have died uncompensated during a period when the industry should have been well aware of their predicament and its cause,” she said.

A total of R464 million will be paid into the Qhubeka Trust, a Xhosa word for going forward, chaired by Sophia Kisting, an expert in occupational disease, and the former director of the International Labour Organisation.

The trust, which will be responsible for determining medical eligibility, is expected to arrange medical evaluations of the claimants to determine the existence and severity of silicosis. Only those who worked at Anglo American or AngloGold mines for at least two years, and were medically diagnosed with silicosis were eligible for compensation, Meeran said.

Asked how much each miner would receive, Meeran declined to quantify the amount. He said payments would be based on a tariff system, which would reflect the severity of disease and age of the claimant.

“Since the overall amount of the settlement is a fixed amount, the level of the tariffs will depend on the number of claimants who qualify. Based on an analysis of a random sample it is anticipated that approximately 60 percent of the group may qualify,” he said.

He added that relatives of deceased claimants who met the criteria would be included in the compensation. The trust was expected to work for a duration of six years and compensation was expected to be complete in the next four years.

Benson Binyana Qubeka, who was one of the lead claimants in the litigation said he was happy. “We are sick from working in the mines. The mines have finished us.”

Andile Sangqu, the head of Anglo American, said: “We have sympathy for all miners who have contracted silicosis and believe that the agreement to settle this litigation is in the best interest of the plaintiffs, their families, Anglo American and its wider stakeholders.”

Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan, AngloGold Ashanti’s chief executive, in a statement agreed with Sangqu. “Both companies and the plaintiffs have a common interest in settling this highly complex case that could take several years to resolve through litigation.”

iol.co.za

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