S.A. Court Ruling Opens Gate to Health Claims


"Mining industry vulnerable to individual claims, class-action lawsuits."

The Constitutional Court on Thursday opened the door to a litany of legal claims, or possible class action, against the mining industry which could amount to hundreds of millions, after it ruled workers were allowed to sue for health damages under common law.

This came after the court delivered judgment on whether the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) prohibits the common law right of mineworkers to recover damages against mining firms, even though mineworkers were covered by the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act and therefore not entitled to claim under COIDA.

In the case of underground mineworker Thembekile Mankayi against AngloGold Ashanti, Mankayi claimed he contracted tuberculosis and chronic obstructive airways while in the employ of AngloGold between 1979 and 1995, which rendered him unable to work as a mineworker or in any other occupation.

As a result, he claimed damages totaling R2.6m, comprising loss of earnings of R738,147, medical expenses of R1,374,600 and general damages of R500,000.

"The basis of his claim is that AngloGold owed him a legal duty arising under both common law and statute to provide a safe and healthy environment in which to work," read the judgment delivered by Justice J Khampepe. "In breach of this duty, AngloGold failed to apply appropriate and effective control measures."

The court decided that the Supreme Court of Appeal's order be set aside and replaced with an order dismissing AngloGold's interpretation of section 35(1) of COIDA.

AngloGold was also ordered to pay all costs.

Mankanyi's legal representative Richard Spoor confirmed in court that Mankanyi died on Friday as a result of his medical condition.

"There are tens of thousands of sick workers out there," said Spoor. "This is a huge victory for them."

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