Mining companies appeal silicosis judgment

“We think this is an attempt to frustrate and delay, and characteristic of what they’ve been doing,” says lawyer for mineworkers

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Photo of miner with silicosis
Monde Mxesibe lives in Zagwityi near Butterworth in the Eastern Cape. He is 62 years old and worked on the mines for 26 years. He has TB. In 1996 the mine told him that he would be compensated. He says he has still received nothing. Photo by Thom Pierce. See http://thompierce.com/tpog/.

The Occupational Lung Disease Working Group, an organisation made up of several mining companies, has announced that the companies have filed individual applications to appeal against the silicosis judgment.

The landmark silicosis judgment was handed down by Judge Phineas Mojapelo on 13 May. It certified two classes of miners, those who contracted silicosis and those who contracted TB, who could seek compensation from the mining companies. The judgment opened the way for multi-billion rand litigation or settlements that would benefit hundreds of thousands of miners. 

The mining companies that have filed appeals are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Gold. 

Explaining the reason for the appeal, a statement for the companies said, “The Court itself found that the scope and magnitude of the proposed claims is unprecedented in South Africa and that the class action would address novel and complex issues of fact and law. The companies are applying for leave to appeal because they believe that the court’s ruling on some of these issues is incorrect and that another court may come to a different decision.”

It further said that the companies believed “a fair and sustainable settlement is preferable to long and protracted litigation.” It noted that discussions have been proceeding for more than a year with the claimants’ representatives.

Richard Spoor an attorney representing the miners told GroundUp, “We’re disappointed. The purpose of the class certification by the court was very much in the interest of justice, and will expedite their compensation. This appeal frustrates and undermines the very purpose of the class certification. The companies are entitled to contest the merits of the class action but they are capable of doing that within the class process. We think this is an attempt to frustrate and delay, and characteristic of what they’ve been doing. The certification process has already taken five years. We will do what we can to expedite the process and we will oppose leave to appeal.”

Spoor also said, “We estimate that approximately 4% of gold miners with silicosis die each year. They are elderly and susceptible to opportunistic infection. That’s thousands of people every year.”

For further details on the case see Understanding the silicosis judgment. Also see GroundUp’s extensive coverage of the case.

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TOPICS:  Human Rights Labour Mining

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