Former gold miners in South Africa have been given a nod to go ahead with a class action against mining companies over health damage that allegedly arose from their work in South African gold mines.
The ex-miners claim to have contracted silicosis, an incurable lung disease, after years of working in the mines and a high court decision has paved the way for the case of the former gold miners which may in turn become the largest class action in South African history to date.
The court has said that the class action is “the only realistic option”.
Gold mining played an important role in South Africa’s history, with Johannesburg, its largest city, being built on the gold reefs and silicosis, which is caused by inhaling the silica dust in gold-bearing rocks, is a lead-up to breathing difficulties, regular coughing and chest pains; and can also lead to the deadly tuberculosis disease.
A bulk of the miners who allegedly contracted silicosis while working underground have been unable to work for many years, dependent on government grants for a living. It’s a sad situation indeed.
The claims however go back several decades and even involve former gold miners from neighboring countries such as Lesotho. The battle for compensation has been a long, drawn out one and the lawyers who are representing the former gold miners believe this court ruling to be the first step towards justice.
The defendants include companies like; Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Gold and African Rainbow Minerals according to a report by the Reuters news agency. Anglo American had previously reached a $30m (£21m) suit with 400 miners in a separate silicosis case.
Its a case that is fully expected to span 10 long years but there is of course the possibility that this class action will be settled out of court. Either route would lead to a form of justice to these former gold miners and we can only watch to see how the case goes.