A 5 billion rand ($353 million) class action settlement between gold mining companies and law firms representing thousands of miners in South Africa who contracted the fatal lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis was approved by a high court in Johannesburg on July 26.
The companies involved in the settlement are Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, African Rainbow Minerals ARIJ.J, Sibanye-Stillwater SGLJ.J, AngloGold Ashanti and Anglo American South Africa. The latter no longer has gold assets but historically was a bullion producer.
Reuters reported that the companies agreed to the terms in May of 2018 but the court had to approve the settlement before it could be implemented.
The settlement follows a long legal battle by miners to win compensation for illnesses they say they contracted over decades because of negligence in health and safety.
“All the parties made an effort to ensure that the settlement agreement is reasonable, adequate and fair,” the High Court said in its judgment.
The class action suit was launched in 2012 on behalf of miners suffering from silicosis, an incurable disease caused by inhaling silica dust from gold-bearing rocks.
It causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough and chest pains, and also makes people highly susceptible to tuberculosis.
Each claimant will be paid out between R70,000 and R500,000, depending on the category they fall into, the Citizen reported.
These categories are: People who contracted silicosis or were exposed to silica dust; the dependants of deceased miners who fell ill with silicosis; people suffering from tuberculosis; and the dependants of deceased miners who contracted tuberculosis.
According to Judge Leoni Windell, “all the parties made an effort to ensure that the settlement agreement is reasonable, adequate and fair”.
“The terms of the settlement agreement demonstrate that they succeeded in their efforts,” said the case’s judgment.