Ex-mineworkers get R5bn as silicosis saga comes to an end
This concludes what has been described as one of the most complex multi-party class action settlements ever.
Matela Hlabathe and Vuyani Elliot Dwadube listen to the judgment in court. Hlabathe got sick with TB three times while working underground for 36 years. He received R39,000 compensation. Dwadube worked for Harmony Gold for 16 years before being retrenched in 1995. He has TB but has never received compensation. Photo: Shayne Robinson, GroundUp
The battle for justice of thousands of mineworkers and the dependants of dead mineworkers who contracted silicosis or pulmonary tuberculosis during or after their employment from 1965 has finally come to an end.
The High Court in Johannesburg approved a R5 billion settlement agreement following a class action lawsuit.
Each claimant will be paid out between R70,000 and R500,000, depending on the category they fall into.
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.
In May, the lawyers of the miners joined forces with five mining groups in a bid to get the court to approve the historic R5 billion settlement agreement.
The agreement provides for the payment of benefits worth R5 billion through the Tshiamiso Trust, which was set up specifically for this purpose, GroundUp reported at the time.
It will now receive R845 million to identify and locate the eligible mineworkers and dependants, as it is still unknown how many mineworkers or their dependants are entitled to claim, as many of them are scattered across the subcontinent.
The settlement agreement is regarded as one of the most complex multi-party class action settlements ever concluded.
It follows the so-called “Nkala class action suit” brought a few years back by former gold mine workers seeking compensation against their former employers for illnesses contracted while working.
Though the five mining companies and the mineworkers have reached agreement on the benefits to be paid, the court has now finalised the agreement after finding that absent mineworkers are adequately protected by it.
The five mining groups that signed onto the settlement are: Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye-Stillwater.
These groups will be protected against any future liability arising from the same claims.
The mining companies that elected not to participate are DRD Gold, East Rand Proprietary Mines (ERPM), Randgold and Exploration, Evander Gold, Simmer and Jack Mines and African Rainbow Minerals, as well as Doornfontein and Blyvoorzicht, which are no longer operating and have been deregistered.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman. Background reporting, Ciaran Ryan, GroundUp)