The lawyers who won a R5bn settlement for tens of thousands of former gold-mine workers with lung diseases have set their sights on coal companies.
Richard Spoor, one of a group of lawyers fighting for compensation for former mine workers in gold mines suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis, said companies such as Sasol and Exxaro would be subject to legal action on a company-by-company basis.
Settlement of the largest and most complex class action in SA was reached in Johannesburg on Thursday, with six companies making provisions for R5bn to compensate claimants numbering anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people, including widows and dependants of former mine workers who died of their lung diseases incurred since 1965.
Companies such as Sasol and Exxaro would be subject to legal action on a company-by-company basisRichard Spoor
The agreement included a R370m payment to the lawyers involved in bringing the class action against 32 gold mining companies and an R845m payment towards setting up and administering a trust with a 12-year lifespan to trace, verify, assess and pay claimants.
The companies will provide R1.4bn upfront towards compensation payments and then make additional contributions as claims are made against them through the trust.
The claimants will secure payments of between R70,000 and R500,000 each.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the compensation scheme would run closely with the department’s Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases (MBOD), which had identified 105,000 potential cases of occupational lung diseases after working through 250,000 of 800,000 old files of mine workers dating back to 1960.
However, the disbursement of R4.5bn held by MBOD was proving extremely difficult because of problems in tracking down former mine workers in SA’s rural areas and neighbouring countries, he said. The MBOD would be phased out in three decades, he said.
Thursday’s settlement had to be ratified by the court and was unlikely to be implemented before the third quarter of this year. The agreement set out 10 classes of claimants who can benefit from the settlement, which is over and above the statutory payments to come from the MBOD.
The six mining companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American Corporation SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold and Sibanye-Stillwater, with Pan African Resources yet to sign.