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SA Miners Class Action Wins Historic Settlement From Gold Mining Firms

The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, South Africa, on July 26 granted final approval for an open-ended settlement reached in May 2018 for a class action suit brought by thousands of South African gold mine workers and dependents of workers, who developed tuberculosis, silicosis and other chronic illnesses after being exposed to toxic silica dust while working in gold mines.

The mines are owned by African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Stillwater, who were defendants in the case. An initial $390 million settlement last year was put to the South Gauteng High Court for consideration.

The settlement approved by the High Court on July 26 is not a limited fund or fixed amount and the companies have agreed to compensate all eligible claimants. Class members will be provided notice of the approved settlement terms and details on how to file a claim.

According to media reports, prior to this litigation, few class actions have been brought in South Africa and none for sick workers. The agreement creates a trust to compensate all eligible workers who worked in defendant companies' mines from 1965 to date. The settlement includes a significant budget for the trust to locate potential class members, medically examine eligible miners and provide compensation to all qualifying class members.

South Africa human rights lawyer Richard Spoor represented the plaintiff class, retaining US law firm Motley Rice LLC which has previously taken on big tobacco, to consult on the litigation in 2011. Consultants for the claimants included Abrahams Kiewitz Inc., Hausfeld LLP and the Legal Resources Centre. The Occupational Lung Disease Working Group was formed to represent the respondents.

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