September 24, 2017

Gold miners to settle stand-alone silicosis claims out of court

legal challenge

Both AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American have resolved to an out-of-court settlement in standalone silicosis cases involving 4, 400 former employees, committing to paying R464 million.

In a statement, AngloGold Ashanti CEO, Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan (Venkat), commented on the landmark decision: “AngloGold Ashanti believes that agreeing settlement terms is in the best interests of the claimants, their families, and the company. Both companies and the plaintiffs have a common interest in settling this highly-complex case that could take several years to resolve through litigation.”

Interestingly, the settlement has been reached without admission of liability by AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American SA and the terms of the agreement remain confidential.

 In addition, both companies will contribute, in stages, toward a total amount of up to R464 million, which will be placed in an independent trust. The trust, administered by trustees, will determine medical and other eligibility and compensation to claimants with the funds available. Compensation will be determined at the discretion of the trustees, and will be based upon the agreed guiding principles set out in the trust deed.

It has to be noted that there are proceedings of a class action ongoing involving the 4, 400 ex-miners, and regarding this case, the AngloGold says: “It should be noted that this settlement agreement is not related to the pending class action certification application that is currently before the courts. The court is still to determine whether or not a class action law suit is the appropriate way to hear this action. The judgment on this matter is still pending.”

Certification is a pre-requisite for launching a class action and requires the applicants to demonstrate good cause for the allowing the class action to proceed. Some of the key requirements include:

  • whether the class is defined with sufficient precisio
  • whether the members have a prima facie case
  • whether there are common issues of fact or law that are capable of class-wide determination
  • whether allowing a class action is appropriate in the circumstances

A class action is not something typically pursued in the South Africa, but if it goes ahead it could take up to 20 years to resolve – with huge financial implications in legal costs alone – making settlement a far more viable option for mining houses.

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