South Africa gold miners sue Anglo American in LondonPublished by MAC on 2011-09-26
Source: Reuters, BBC News
Thousands of former South African miners and their families have long awaited legal confirmation that London-listed Anglo American consigned its labour forces to a living death. See:
For South Africa's sickened gold miners, a long wait for justice
Finally some of the survivors of what was once the world's biggest gold producer may gain compensation after contractig fatal silicosis from working down the company's poorly-ventilated, dust-choked pits.
South Africa gold miners sue Anglo American
Former gold miners in South Africa are suing industry giant Anglo American in the London High Court for allegedly damaging their health, their lawyers say.
21 September 2011
South African mineworkers demonstrate over safety standards (archive shot)
The ex-workers contracted lung diseases because of bad ventilation in the UK-based company's South African mines, their lawyers allege.
|South African mineworkers demonstrate over health and safety
Source: BBC archive
They are demanding compensation of millions of dollars.
Anglo American says it is "in no way liable" and is defending the claims.
The firm said it had denied liability in answer to similar claims filed in South African courts, and maintains that "these gold companies which employed the mine workers were responsible for the health and safety of their employees and took reasonable steps to protect them".
The 450 ex-miners allegedly suffered from silicosis - an incurable lung disease - because of high dust levels in mines, said Leigh Day & Co, the London law firm representing them.
The case was being fought in the London High Court because the company's headquarters was in the city, it said.
'River of disease'
"Black miners at South African mines undertook the dustiest jobs, unprotected by respirators or - unlike their white counterparts - with access to on-site showers," the firm said, in a statement.
"Dust levels were high and they suffered massive rates of silicosis, a known hazard of gold mining for the last century."
"Communities in areas of Eastern Cape and Lesotho have been decimated "
Leigh Day & Co said the workers faced the health risks up to 1998 - four years after white minority rule ended.
"Black miners known to have contracted silicosis were allowed to continue working in underground dusty conditions," it said.
The law firm alleged that workers from South Africa's Eastern Cape province and neighbouring countries, including Lesotho and Botswana, had fallen ill.
"Communities in areas of Eastern Cape and Lesotho have been decimated by what one leading South African medical expert has referred to as a river of disease flowing out of South African gold mines," it said.
The firm said the case was similar to the one South African asbestos miners brought about a decade ago against UK multinational, Cape Plc.
"There are striking similarities between this silicosis public health disaster and the asbestos scandal in which 7,500 South African asbestos miners.... successfully sued Cape Plc," it said.
South Africa practised the system of apartheid, which discriminated against black people, until 1994.
In recent years, Leigh Day & Co has launched several compensation suites in Africa.
The firm has sued oil giant Shell over environmental degradation in Nigeria, transport firm Trafigura over the dumping of waste in Ivory Coast and the UK government for alleged human rights abuses during the colonial period in Kenya.
Shell admitted liability, Trafigura denied any wrongdoing but agreed compensation with both the Ivory Coast government and Abidjan residents who said they became sick, while the UK-Kenya case is ongoing.
Ex South African miners sue Anglo American in UK
21 September 2011
LONDON - Several hundred South African former miners have launched court proceedings against Anglo American Plc in London, the latest in a wave of lawsuits and compensation claims over lung disease that could cost the gold industry billions.
Law firm Leigh Day & Co, which has filed similar claims in South Africa, said on Wednesday it had begun proceedings in the High Court on behalf of more than 450 miners who say they are suffering from silicosis and silico-tuberculosis -- lung diseases associated with dust inhalation -- after working in the company's gold mines.
A ruling by South Africa's top court earlier this year, allowing lung-diseased miners to sue their employers, has revived interest in many long-running cases and could, lawyers say, open the door for tens of thousands of former mineworkers to sue South African mining companies at a cost that analysts say could hit $100 billion.
Many black miners worked without respirators and had no access to on-site showers, making them particularly vulnerable to inhaling crystalline silica dust.
Leigh Day partner Richard Meeran said he saw similarities between recent silicosis cases and a case a decade ago in which 7,500 former South African asbestos miners claimed compensation against UK-based Cape Plc.
"First, the similarity in the nature and causes of these diseases and the measures required to prevent them, namely dust control; secondly, industry knowledge of the hazard having existed for more than 100 years and thirdly, what we allege is the disregard of the industry, in its drive for profit, for miners' health," he said.
He said the miners hoped for an early settlement.
Anglo American South Africa, the wholly-owned entity being sued by the miners, was one of the world's largest gold miners through much of the 20th century, though its presence in South Africa was long through stakes in a variety of mining firms, meaning it would not necessarily have directly employed the miners. Anglo is no longer active in gold mining.
The miner acknowledged receipt of the notices of claim against its South African unit.
"Anglo American South Africa has denied liability in answer to similar claims filed in South African courts that have been sponsored by the same law firm," a spokesman said.
"Anglo American does not believe that it is any way liable for the silicosis claims brought by former gold workers and is defending the actions. Anglo American maintains that these gold companies which employed the mineworkers were responsible for the health and safety of their employees and took reasonable steps to protect them."