Former gold mineworkers to receive more than R500m in silicosis case

18th March 2016 By: Megan van Wyngaardt - Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

Former gold mineworkers and relatives of deceased former mineworkers last week reached a landmark settlement, in excess of R500-million, in their long-running legal battle against mining giants Anglo American South Africa and AngloGold Ashanti.

A trust, Qhubeka, will be set up under the settlement and will see R464-million paid into the fund for distribution, while a further amount will be paid to assist the trust to enable payment of Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act (ODMWA) compensation to claimants who qualify for it.

In addition, Anglo American and AngloGold will fund the costs of the trust and the medical evaluations.

The 4 365 claimants sued the mining companies for dust-related lung diseases, silicosis and silico- tuberculosis, which they claimed they contracted from working in unsafe conditions in the companies’ mines.

The claims were instituted from 2012 and are separated from the silicosis class action proceedings that are still awaiting a decision on certification from the Johannesburg High Court.

The claimants were represented by Mbuyisa Neale Attorneys’ Zanele Mbuyisa, assisted by UK-based human rights lawyers Leigh Day.

To qualify for compensation, claimants will need to be medi- cally diagnosed with silicosis and to have worked on Anglo American or AngloGold mines for at least two years.

The trust will arrange medi- cal evaluations of the claimants locally to determine the existence and severity of silicosis.

Payments will be based on a tariff system, reflecting the seve- rity of the disease and the age of the claimant. Relatives of deceased claimants who met the criteria will also be included.

Since the overall amount of the settlement is fixed, the level of the tariffs will depend on the number of claimants who qualify. Based on an analysis of a random sample, it is expected that about 60% of the group could qualify.

In addition to payment from the trust, the trust will arrange for claims to be submitted to the Medical Bureau of Diseases for compensation under the ODMWA. Anglo American and AngloGold have promised to do their best to facilitate the ODMWA payments.

The Qhubeka trustees, chaired by Dr Sophia Kisting, are experts in the fields of occupational disease, financial administration and law.

“The epidemic of silicosis and tuberculosis has caused widespread suffering and misery for [former] miners, their families and communities. “Sick [former] 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.

“A six-week trial had been scheduled in April 2016. Based on the evidence amassed and the powerful support from an array of eminent experts, we were confident of winning.

“However, continuing with the liti- gation, rather than settling, would have meant a further substantial delay in receipt of compensation, which the claimants and their families cannot afford,” Mbuyisa said.

Anglo American South Africa CEO Andile Sangqu says the company has sympathy for all miners who contracted silicosis and believes that the agreement to settle this litigation is in the best interests of the plaintiffs, their families, Anglo American South Africa and its wider stakeholders.