Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Gold miners in SA with silicosis or tuberculosis, or their dependents, will secure payments of between R70,000 and R500,000 from a trust fund set up by seven mining companies and lawyers for sick workers to settle the country’s largest class-action law suit.

The mining companies have provided for R5bn towards the settlement agreement that was signed in Johannesburg on Thursday. The settlement has to be ratified by the court and is unlikely to be implemented before the third quarter of this year.

The agreement set out 10 classes of claimants who can benefit from the agreement, which is over and above the statutory payments from a government-administered fund that disburses money for those afflicted by occupational diseases.

"There is no limit on the number of potential claimants. Any claimant who has a qualifying claim will receive the compensation due to them during the lifetime of the trust," the parties to the agreement said in a statement.

The mining companies will pay R845m towards the administration of the trust during its life span, with an initial R5m to set it up, then R100m in the first year to ensure it is operationally effective.

The companies will put in R1.4bn for the first two years of benefit payments and thereafter be called on by the trust to make annual contributions based on the claims laid against the companies by sick mineworkers or their dependents.

The three law firms acting on behalf of the claimants, Richard Spoor, Abrahams Kiewitz, Motley Rice, and Hausfeld will be paid R335m for the work done over the past 14 years. The Legal Resources Centre will receive R15m.

The trust will comprise three members nominated by the mining companies, two by the claimants’ lawyers, one by the government, and one consensus person nominated by the companies and lawyers.

"For mineworkers, this settlement provides an opportunity to receive a medical examination and much needed compensation for those suffering from silicosis and/or tuberculosis, without the need to pursue extended litigation and the risks inherent with that approach," the parties said in the statement.

"For the companies in the working group, this represents a huge step towards their previously stated goal of a comprehensive solution to issues relating to compensation for occupational lung disease in the gold mining industry in SA that is both fair to past, present and future gold mining employees, and also sustainable for the sector."

The seven mining companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, Sibanye-Stillwater and Pan African Resources.