Judge rules in favour of silicosis class action suit

Thousands of miners contracted the fatal lung disease silicosis while working underground.

FILE: Supporters of the sick former mineworkers outside the Johannesburg High Court. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The High Court in Johannesburg has given the green light for a class action suit seeking damages from the gold mining sector on behalf of thousands of miners who contracted the fatal lung disease silicosis while working underground.

The court has also allowed a class action to go ahead on behalf of miners who contracted tuberculosis in the mines.

The court has found that in order to save it time and money, to listen to each individual application, class action would be in the best interest of all parties.

Workers are also not in the financial position to access the courts individually.

Fifty-six workers and family members currently form part of the court application but the number of workers who will benefit from the ruling is estimated at over 200,000.

Silicosis is caused by inhaling silica dust from gold-bearing rocks. It causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough and chest pains, and makes people highly susceptible to tuberculosis.

The claims, which stretch back decades, involve not just South Africans but also thousands of former miners from neighbouring countries such as Lesotho.

This is why Anglo American, which no longer has any interests in gold mining, and ARM, which no longer operates gold mines, have been named in the claims.

All parties have been reminded that if a settlement for compensation is to be reached between workers and companies, a court first needs to give the green light.