Anglo American sets aside $101m for silicosis claims

British miner Anglo American has set aside $101 million (87 million euros) to cover potential damages for former South African staff who contracted the fatal lung disease silicosis at work, it said Thursday.

The news came after Johannesburg’s High Court ruled in May to allow former and current mine workers, employed by South Africa’s main gold mining firms since 1965, to proceed with a class action against those companies.

That court decision cleared the way for up to half-a-million miners to sue for damages resulting from silicosis — a deadly respiratory condition developed from breathing in fine silica dust found in places such as mines.

“We have made an accounting provision within our half year results this morning, acknowledging the progress that is being made towards an agreement as part of the working group of companies in the silicosis litigation in South Africa,” an Anglo American spokesman told AFP on Thursday.

“This figure is an estimate at this stage and we will see where the negotiations land in the months ahead.”

The miners accuse 30 subsidiaries of seven companies — including African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Gold Fields and Sibanye Gold — of knowingly and systematically failing to protect workers against the disease that inflames and scars the lungs.

In a separate statement on Thursday, Gold Fields Ltd said it had set aside $30 million for the class action lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Anglo American saw its share price jump Thursday after announcing the resumption of shareholder dividends.

The company added in a results statement that it had rebounded into first-half profit on steep cost-cutting and higher commodity prices.

Profit after taxation hit $1.415 billion in the six months to the end of June. That followed a loss of $813 million in the same period a year earlier.

Anglo’s share price rallied 3.22 percent to 1,233.50 pence in late afternoon deals on London’s falling FTSE 100 index.

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