Settlement seen in silicosis class action against gold firms

07 February 2018 - 11:09 By Reuters
A chest X-ray of simple silicosis
A chest X-ray of simple silicosis
Image: Gumersindorego/ Wikimedia Commons

A R9 billion settlement should be reached "within months" in a class action suit brought against South African gold producers by miners suffering from lung diseases including silicosis, the chair of an industry group on the issue said on Wednesday.

The suit was launched almost six years ago on behalf of miners suffering from silicosis, a fatal lung disease contacted by inhaling silica dust in gold mines.

Almost all of the claimants are black miners from South Africa and neighbouring countries such as Lesotho, whom critics say were not provided with adequate protection during and even after apartheid rule ended in 1994.

"The faster we settle, the faster we can pay compensation to those who are entitled to it," Graham Briggs, chair of the Working Group on Occupational Lung Disease, told Reuters ahead of a presentation on the topic he was to give at a mining conference in Cape Town.

The six companies involved are Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, African Rainbow Minerals, Sibanye-Stillwater, AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American.

Anglo American no longer has gold assets but historically was a bullion producer.

The six companies said late last year they were making provisions for about R5 billion and Briggs said there was close to R4 billion in a compensation fund which companies have been contributing to for years.