JOHANNESBURG -- South African mineworkers who contracted the respiratory disease silicosis have won a "landmark" settlement against mining giant Anglo American (IW 1000/158), ending a long-running claim, their lawyers said today.
"This is the first gold miners' silicosis settlement in South Africa," legal firm Leigh Day said in a statement.
The London-based firm said the terms of the monetary settlement for the 23 miners are confidential. "Today's settlement gives a significant boost to silicosis victims' quest for an industrywide settlement scheme," it said.
Former mineworkers employed by the firm claimed they got silicosis, which has no known cure, from inhaling dangerous levels of silica dust while drilling rocks in goldmines.
When miners are exposed to excessive amounts, silica dust lodges in the lungs and permanently scars the organ.
Symptoms include persistent coughing and shortness of breath, and the disease often leads to tuberculosis and death.
Lawyers: Seven Claimants Have Died
The cases were brought in 2004 and 2009. Lawyers said seven claimants had died during the course of the trial and that others were in poor health.
The case was due for an arbitration hearing next year.
"We urge the gold mining companies to establish an industrywide settlement scheme without delay," lawyer Richard Meeran said.
Anglo American's South African affiliate said the settlement was reached without admission of liability on the company’s part.
Anglo American moved its headquarters from Johannesburg to London in 1999, a year after grouping its gold operations into Anglo Gold, now Anglo Gold Ashanti. It has since sold its gold interests.
The company also faces a separate class-action suit brought by around 4,000 miners.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013