R9bn settlement closer

VICTORY is close for hundreds of thousands of mineworkers and their families in their decade-long,Picture: Supplied

VICTORY is close for hundreds of thousands of mineworkers and their families in their decade-long battle for compensation from mines where they contracted silicosis and tuberculosis while toiling underground.

The miners or their loved ones – many of the men are long dead – will receive a share of R9bn they won in a historic class action lawsuit against six South African mining companies.

The payout should happen within a few months. Claimants from the lawsuit are black miners from six South African mines, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, African Rainbow Minerals, Sibanye-Stillwater, AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American. Alan Fine at the Chamber of Mines told The New Age yesterday that they were still working on tracking down everyone who was entitled to compensation.

Graham Briggs, the chairperson of the Working Group on Occupational Lung Disease that has been involved in the action, said the mines were keen to settle the long drawn out case as the faster that happened, the faster compensation could be paid to those who were entitled to it.

“Within a few months we should have a deal, there’s been great progress,” Briggs said. The working group was formed to address issues relating to compensation and medical care for occupational lung disease in the gold mining industry in SA.

The Minister for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation told the Investing in Africa Mining Indaba in Cape Town this week that the lives of the mineworkers must always come first. “Let us ensure that we establish a lucrative mining industry that is beneficial to all.

“Let us advance the spirit of goodwill, fair labour practice and mutual beneficiation in the mining industry” he said. The six gold mining companies were served with a consolidated class action application in 2013. They denied liability but in 2016, the South Gauteng High Court ordered the certification of two classes. The first was a silicosis class comprising of current and former mine workers who contracted silicosis and the dependants of mine workers who died of silicosis.

The second was a tuberculosis class comprising current and former mine workers (and their dependants) who worked on the mines for not less than two years and who contracted pulmonary tuberculosis. Fast forward to this year, the companies are now working on the settlement and relief is on the way.

In a report by trade union Solidarity, Richard Spoor, a lawyer representing the claimants, said that a settlement would bring an end to almost a decadelong fight to compensate the hundreds of thousands of mine workers.

– With Reuters thelman@thenewage.co.za