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Compensation Case Against Anglo American Advance by a Notch

Published by MAC on 2004-08-24

Compensation Case Against Anglo American Advance by a Notch

Just as renewed attention focuses on Anglo-American's recent escape from asbestosis litigation in South Africa, new cases are launched claiming that South Africa's biggest mining conglomerate was responsible for the deaths of many thousands of miners from silicosis, associated primarily with gold mining.

South African miners sue Anglo American for silicosis

PlanetArk (Reuters)

24th August 2004

Johannesburg - Ten South African gold miners suffering from silicosis filed a test court case last week against mining giant Anglo American Plc , which could result in billions of rand in claims from other miners, lawyers said.

The miners contracted silicosis, a respiratory ailment which can take up to 30 years to develop, after breathing in excessive levels of dust, according to the lawyers.

Anglo will be asked to pay up to 20 million rand for injury, pain and suffering, loss of earnings and medical expenses for the 10 men, said Richard Meeran, a consultant for Australian lawyers Slater & Gordon, who have specialised in asbestos cases.

"These are test cases, and we are also looking at the wider picture ... The total cost of the silicosis cases could be very high indeed," he said.

It was very difficult to estimate the number of South African miners and former miners suffering from silicosis, which is debilitating and can be fatal, especially when victims are also suffering from tuberculosis, Meeran said.

Estimates by experts range from tens of thousands to half a million, he added.

Anglo American, the world's third-biggest diversified mining company, said it had not received notification of a lawsuit, but would defend any that is filed regarding silicosis.

"We do not believe Anglo American is liable, and we will defend any legal proceedings which are instituted against Anglo," said spokeswoman Anne Dunn, who declined to comment further.

Apartheid Era

During the apartheid era, showering and changing facilities at the mine shaft, which are needed to remove toxic dust, were not provided for black workers, a statement from the lawyers said.

"The industry appears to have had displayed a flagrant disregard and cavalier attitude to the health of their workers, placing profit as the clear priority, taking full advantage of the apartheid system," it said.

In addition to demanding compensation for individual miners, the suit is attempting to establish a fund to monitor and treat respiratory disease in former miners.

Also working on the case is the UK Legal Resources Centre and London-based Leigh Day & Company, the law firm that represented South African miners who successfully sued British building group Cape Plc for asbestos-related illnesses.

The South African Legal Aid Board is also providing funding for the cases, the statement said.


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