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Mineworkers’ lawyer welcomes class action judgment

A lawyer for mineworkers suffering from diseases contracted at the mines welcomed the judgment on Friday which certified a class action by mineworkers against gold mining companies in South Africa.

The Johannesburg court certified the class action brought by 69 workers against companies operating in the gold mining industry.

Few class actions have been brought in South Africa and none filed for sick workers.

The mineworkers were represented by Richard Spoor Incorporated‚ Abrahams Kiewitz Incorporated and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC).

On Friday‚ the court granted certification for current and former mineworkers who have contracted silicosis‚ as well as the dependents of mineworkers who died of silicosis‚ who worked for two years or more on one or more of the 82 mines owned by the companies.

The court also granted certification for current and former mineworkers who have tuberculosis‚ but who do not have silicosis‚ and the dependents of miners who died of tuberculosis.

Certifying the class means that litigation may continue to the phase which includes discovery and preparing for trial.

Mthobeli Gangatha‚ one of people who have been diagnosed with silicosis‚ welcomed the judgment.

“As miners we were not helped and protected even though our employers knew that we were going to get sick‚” said the former gold mine worker‚ who lives in Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape. “I am happy and relieved that the court’s decision is in our favour

Spoor said a pervasive culture had existed for decades in the mining industry that viewed these miners as disposable.

“It has been a privilege to represent them and offer a voice to thousands who have never had one and who have been ignored by society‚” Spoor said.

Charles Abrahams said the court decision was a crucial step in the path to justice for potentially hundreds of thousands of mine workers and the families of deceased mine workers who contracted silicosis and TB as a result of their employment in poorly maintained working environments of South Africa’s gold mining industry.

The LRC’s Sayi Nindi-Thsiani said the organisation had been involved in litigation since 2004 in the hope of obtaining compensation for all sick gold miners and their families.

“Mining companies must pay for failing to protect mineworkers against excessive levels of dust and the concomitant risks of silicosis and tuberculosis.

“This judgment is a step in the right direction‚” Nindi-Thsiani said