JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African gold producers agreed a 5 billion rand (294.39 million pounds) class action settlement on Thursday with law firms representing thousands of miners who contracted the fatal lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis, officials said on Thursday.
The most far-reaching class action settlement ever reached in South Africa 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.
The six companies involved had already set aside the settlement amount in provisions in previous financial statements and it should not affect future earnings, unless the number of claimants who come forward exceed the current provisions.
Estimates for the number of potential claimants range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Three smaller gold producers are not party to the settlement and the class action against them will continue.
The class action suit was launched six years ago 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.