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In what has been called South Africa’s biggest lawsuit, 32 gold mine companies have signed a R5 billion class action settlement. The companies were being sued by thousands of miners who contracted silicosis and tuberculosis.

Silicosis court case reaches agreementThe agreement, which still needs to be ratified by the court, makes provision for the establishment of a trust that will compensate mineworkers who worked in the gold mines and contracted lung diseases. It will see will see thousands of workers and their dependents receive pay outs ranging from R70 000 to R250 000.

The agreement set out 10 classes of claimants who can benefit from the funds. The trust will be providing the funds over and above the statutory payments sick miners are receiving from a government-administered fund that disburses money for those afflicted by occupational diseases.

“There is no limit on the number of potential claimants. Any claimant who has a qualifying claim will receive the compensation due to them during the lifetime of the trust,” the parties to the agreement said in a statement.

The mining companies will pay R845 million towards the administration of the trust during its life span, with an initial R5 million to set it up. R100 million has been allocated for the first year to ensure it is operationally effective. The companies will put in R1.4-billion for the first two years of benefit payments and thereafter be called on by the trust to make annual contributions based on the claims laid against the companies by sick mineworkers or their dependents.

The trust will comprise three members nominated by the mining companies, two by the claimants’ lawyers, one by the government, and one consensus person nominated by the companies and lawyers. The settlement comes after nearly three years of negotiations, bringing to an end legal processes which began, in some cases, as long as 14 years ago.

The final amount in the trust will depend on the number of claims that are processed, according to Graham Briggs, who chaired the Occupational Lung Disease Working Group, a unit put together by the gold mining companies, told the media. “If there are more claimants than the actuaries have estimated, then that five billion number could increase. If there are less, then it will decrease,” he said.

Image credit:  Copyright: sergign / 123RF Stock Photo

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