Silicosis case: Mining companies ‘studying’ ruling

The High Court ruled that workers can now be part of a class action suit to claim damages.

FILE: Miners contracted silicosis or TB while working under ground. Pciture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Occupational Lung Disease Working Group, which represents African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony and Sibanye Gold, says the companies are studying the contents of a judgement allowing workers to be part of a class action for compensation.

Earlier today, the High Court ruled that workers can now be part of a class action suit, the largest seen in the country, to claim damages for contracting silicosis or TB while working underground.

While the companies haven't yet decided on whether to lodge an appeal, they say the finding doesn't represent the merits of the cases brought by the claimants.

LISTEN: High Court approves silicosis action suit

The group's spokesperson Alan Fine says issues related to compensation and medical care for the mineworkers should be settled outside of court.

"This Working Group has been working since 2014, interacting with government and other stakeholders in trying to improve and fix the compensation system."

At the same time, human rights lawyer Richard Spoor says today's judgment is a step closer to miners receiving justice.

"It's a very hopeful and positive judgment. It asserts the mineworkers. It upholds the principles enshrined in Constitution and gives us confidence in the rule of law and the strength of the Constitution."

Meanwhile, lawyer Charles Abrahams, who represents the miners, says workers are continuing to engage with gold mine bosses to seek a possible settlement without a lengthy court battle.

"Whatever settlement is reached after today, has to be made in order of court because it will impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of miners."

Fine could not disclose how far parties are in reaching an agreement on a possible settlement to avoid a lengthy court case.

Additional reporting by Mia Lindeque.