Gold mining companies have given their reasons for opposing former mineworkers’ bid to certify a silicosis class action that seeks compensation for contracting lung diseases at their mines.
The 69 mineworkers want the Johannesburg high court to certify a class of claimants comprising of current and former underground mineworkers who have contracted silicosis and tuberculosis. The claimants seek damages against 32 companies which operated 82 mines from 1965 and at present.
Harmony Gold Mining Company said on Thursday that the mineworkers aggregated the blame on the industry and did not specify how each company was responsible.
Chris Loxton SC‚ for Harmony‚ said the mineworkers described in their court papers how the industry as a whole failed‚ for decades‚ to protect the workers‚ and this was not sufficient to establish fault for each mining company.
“Fault must be shown in respect of each defendant.”
Loxton said this statement was also incorrect because there were a number of new entrants in the industry who had not been involved in gold mining for decades.
The argument assumed that all mining companies acted negligently in not reducing dust levels without presenting evidence about the conduct of individual mines.
“While this makes for good reading in the press‚ we know this is not a proper approach‚” Loxton said.
Fanie Cilliers SC‚ for Anglogold Ashanti‚ said the mines could not be grouped together as if they were acting as one.
“There is no such thing in our law of delict as collective responsibility. Nobody suggests here that defendants worked together to do any harm‚” Cilliers said.
Joint liability required joint action by the wrongdoers and no one suggested that the companies acted together‚ he said.
More gold mining companies are expected to present arguments when the case resumes on Friday.