GroundUp: Anglo American joins the silicosis fray – by Pete Lewis (Daily Maverick South Africa – October 21, 2015)

Lawyers for gold mining companies ERPM, DRD and Anglo American added their voices on Tuesday to those of their colleagues fighting the silicosis action in the South Gauteng High Court.

Lawyers for the miners are asking the three judges in the court to certify a class action which would enable them to claim damages from the mining companies as a class, instead of each sick former miner having to do so individually.

The application includes a request that 59 mineworkers who have silicosis and/or TB should be accepted as representatives of the wider class of miners affected by the disease and the dependents of deceased miners.

Lawyers for the mining companies are arguing that the class action should not be certified by the court.

Counsel for ERPM and DRD, Advocate Bruce Leech, said the Constitution acknowledged the right of people to join together in class actions in order to get access to the courts if they could not take action individually.

But, he said, there must be a clear definition of a class of persons affected to which all applicants must conform in every particular; there must be common issues or disputes between all the applicants and all the respondents; there must be a valid cause of action; and finally there must be at least one representative applicant identified for the class.

Even if all these criteria were met, the court would still have to decide whether a class action was in the interests of justice, or whether some other procedure such as test cases or individual litigation would be better.

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