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July 26, 2019

Court approves historic class action settlement for South African gold mine workers

The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg granted final approval today of the historic settlement reached in May 2018 for thousands of South African gold mine workers and dependents of workers who developed tuberculosis, silicosis and other chronic illnesses after being exposed to toxic silica dust while working in the gold mines.

Few class actions have been brought in South Africa and none for sick workers prior to this litigation.

“This litigation has always been about providing a means to justice and meaningful compensation for the thousands of sub-Saharan African gold miner workers and their dependents,” said Motley Rice attorney Michael Elsner who has been a consultant in the South Africa litigation since the beginning and was one of the lead settlement negotiators. “The need for finality of this action is urgent and immense. Tragically, many workers have passed away since this litigation began. Thousands others are struggling with preventable life-threatening illnesses for simply doing their job. This agreement shows a willingness on the part of the mining companies to finally recognize these workers and their families who have sacrificed for the benefit of the mines. I am honored to have been able to help play a role in this historic litigation, and am gratified that the process of providing much-needed compensation and assistance will finally start very soon.”

The very first class action settlement of its kind in South Africa, the agreement creates a Trust to compensate all eligible workers who worked in defendant Companies’ mines from 1965 to date. The settlement includes a significant budget for the Trust to locate potential class members, medically examine eligible miners and provide compensation to all qualifying class members. The settlement is not a limited fund or fixed amount. The Companies have agreed to compensate all eligible Claimants.   

Class members will be provided notice of the approved settlement terms and details on how to file a claim.

The settlement is the result of years of litigation and negotiations among lawyers and consultants for the claimants: Richard Spoor Inc., Motley Rice LLC, Abrahams Kiewitz Inc., Hausfeld, LLP, the Legal Resources Centre; and the Occupational Lung Disease Working Group, representing the respondents: African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Stillwater.

South Africa human rights lawyer Richard Spoor, of the Law Office of Richard Spoor Inc., retained U.S. plaintiffs’ law firm Motley Rice LLC to consult on the litigation in 2011.

Read a joint statement on the specifics of the settlement and view the final judgement.

Learn more about the settlement.

For more about the history of the litigation, visit www.goldminersilicosis.co.za.

About Silicosis

Silicosis is caused by breathing in crystalline silica dust, which comes from the common mineral known as quartz. When inhaled, it damages lung tissue and results in scarring or fibrosis, which reduces lung function. Many mining processes, such as blasting, drilling, handling and transporting rock containing quartz, can generate crystalline silica dust. The most usual complication of silicosis, and a frequent cause of death, is tuberculosis. Individuals with silicosis are three times more likely to develop tuberculosis, which is already at epidemic levels in South Africa. Silicosis is irreversible, progressive and incurable.