Landmark gold miners' silicosis lawsuit to be settled

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Thousands of gold miners are suing 32 mining companies after they contracted silicosis and tuberculosis while in their employ. The South Gauteng High Court has ruled that the country's largest-ever class action lawsuit can go ahead.

JOHANNESBURG – Gold mining companies are expected to sign a settlement agreement on Thursday with workers who contracted silicosis and TB while working in the mines.

That is according to human rights lawyer, Richard Spoor, who represented the mineworkers. 

The class-action lawsuit was launched around six years ago on behalf of miners suffering from the fatal lung disease, contracted by inhaling silica dust in gold mines.

The High Court in 2016 set the stage for protracted proceedings on cases dating back decades in the largest class action suit yet in Africa’s most industrialised country.

WATCH: SA’s biggest-ever class action lawsuit to go ahead

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 six companies involved are Harmony, 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.

READ: Gruelling tales behind miners&39; class action

Spoor said companies have set aside R5-billion in provisions for the settlement.

The agreement will still need to be approved by a high court before it can be implemented.

On top of the R5-billion that companies have made in provisions, there is R4-billion available from a compensation fund to which the industry has been contributing for years.