Health Claims May 'Wipe Out' Miners

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"Attorney Richard Spoor is putting together a class-action case."

Mining MX, André van Vuuren

The risk of a litany of silicosis claims against the mining industry is a serious threat, which should not be underestimated. This is according to analysts at RBC Capital Markets, who said claims could be crippling to the industry.

Commenting on the possible fallout of the Constitutional Court case won by former mine worker Thebekile Mankayi against AngloGold Ashanti in March, the team of analysts lead by Leon Esterhuizen said on Monday a figure of $100bn in claims was not far-fetched.

The court ruled in March that Mankayi, who contracted lung disease while in the employ of AngloGold at Vaal Reefs mine from 1979 to 1995, was permitted to sue the company for damages if the employer had failed to provide a safe and healthy work environment.

The ruling stated Mankayi was not precluded from making claim for his occupation being covered by the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act.

Mankayi, who died the day before the ruling, initially sued AngloGold for R2.6m.

His attorney, Richard Spoor, told Miningmx he is in the process of putting together a class action case.

The same sentiments were expressed by the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) at a press conference last week. It said: "The union would work with miners to compile a register of people who died from and are still suffering with long disease to file a class action suit against the mining companies.”

At the time of the judgment, Webber Wentzel partner Warren Beech said the ruling has provided a basis for mine workers to pursue civil claims against employers, although the onus would still remain on the employee to prove harm caused and the level of damages incurred.

Industry studies done in 1998 put the number of silicoses sufferers at close to 300,000.

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