File: Gold companies AngloGold Ashanti, Evander Gold Mines, Harmony, Sibanye Gold and Village Main Reef met Amcu, NUM, Solidarity and Uasa over three days last week.
JOHANNESBURG – The lawyers for gold mining companies implicated in a groundbreaking silicosis case have filed individual applications to appeal against the class certification judgment handed down by the South Gauteng High Court last month.
In May, the High Court ruled that former mineworkers who had contracted silicosis during their employment, as well as their families, can bring a class-action lawsuit against mining houses.
The Occupational Lung Disease (OLD) Working Group, made of mining giants such as African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Gold, said it would challenge this decision.
Mining houses argue that the judgment addressed a number of highly complex and important issues, including a far reaching amendment of the common law that had not previously been considered by other courts in South Africa.
They said the court itself found that the scope and magnitude of the proposed claims was unprecedented in South Africa and that the class action would address novel and complex issues of fact and law.
The companies were then applying for leave to appeal because they believed that the court’s ruling on some of these issues was incorrect and that another court may come to a different decision.
“The judgment in respect of certification of the class action – and the appeals – do not deal with the merits of the claims made against the companies,” OLD said in a statement.
The Working Group said it did not believe that the legal processes should delay the attempts to expeditiously achieve a comprehensive settlement which was both fair to past, present and future employees, and sustainable for the sector.
It claimed that it had been seeking a settlement with the affected workers.
“Whilst the companies deny liability for the claims, it is nonetheless the Working Group’s view that a fair and sustainable settlement is preferable to long and protracted litigation,” OLD said.
“It is with this in mind that discussions, which have been proceeding for more than a year, are continuing with claimants’ representatives.”