August 20, 2017

Silicosis case: South Africa’s big six fight back

As widely predicted, South Africa’s big six mining companies (African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Gold) are not letting the Silocisis case that has put their reputations on line proceed without a fight. They have lodged their individual applications to appeal against the class certification judgment for their former employees.

Though they are yet to claim culpability, the six companies, under the occupational lung disease (OLD) working group they have established, are willing to reach a compromise with the lawyers representing the ex-miners who are infected by silicosis.

Although none of them are willing to admit liability for the claims, the working group, comprising African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Gold, still believes that “achieving a mutually acceptable comprehensive settlement which is both fair to past, present and future employees, and sustainable for the sector, is preferable to protracted litigation”.

It is not surprising that the OLD Working Group is fiercely contesting the case and suggesting the “out of court” option. If the class action proceeds the cost of reparations to the mining companies will practically drive them out of business. Meanwhile, they have been coming to agreements with various groups of claimants outside of the class action to settle.

While the South Gauteng High Court granted the mining companies leave to appeal against a finding amending the common law in respect of general damages claims, it refused leave to appeal on the certification of silicosis and TB classes. The Court delivered judgment delivered on 13 May 2016.

Adapted for AMB Online from an article that was first published on www.bizcommunity.co.za

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