Sick miners ask Anglo for details of defence – by Ernest Mabuza (Business Day Live [South Africa] – April 29, 2013)

THE long-awaited hearing in which 10 former Anglo miners with silicosis and silico-tuberculosis are seeking compensation began on Friday with an application to compel Anglo American to provide more details of its defence.

The Legal Resources Centre, Legal Aid SA and London-based Leigh Day have been involved in the groundbreaking class action suit since 2004. The two sides agreed last year to go to arbitration.

President Steyn, at which the 10 miners worked, was Anglo’s largest mine in the Free State in the 50-year period up to 1998. Four of the claims are brought by the next of kin of miners who have passed away since the litigation began.

The 10 plaintiffs are part of a group of 18 from the Free State, Eastern Cape and Lesotho who are claiming compensation for silicosis and silico-tuberculosis they argue were contracted when they worked at mines owned by Anglo.

Their claim is that Anglo American SA, the head office company of the Anglo group, was negligently controlled and wrongly advised the mines about dust control measures and silicosis. The former miners are seeking compensation for pain and suffering and for lost earnings and medical expenses.

Silicosis, which has no known cure, is contracted by inhaling tiny particles of silica dust from gold-bearing rocks over many years underground without adequate protection.

The disease causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough and chest pains. It also makes people highly susceptible to tuberculosis, which can be fatal.

However, the action against Anglo is separate from another silicosis class action bid filed in December against AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields and Harmony and Anglo American SA on behalf of 17,000 former miners.

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