Class Action Certified for South African Gold Miners in Landmark Case
Related Lawyers: Michael D. Hausfeld, Richard S. Lewis, Reena A. Gambhir
Related Practice Areas: Environmental Threats, Civil and Human Rights
Johannesburg – (13 May 2016) – The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has certified the first class action in South African history for sick workers, allowing gold miners suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis to proceed with their claims against 30 gold producers, including AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Gold Fields, Anglo American, and African Rainbow Minerals.
The miners are represented by South African Counsel Charles Abrahams, with the assistance of Hausfeld LLP in Washington DC. Abrahams and Hausfeld have been leaders in bringing litigation on behalf of South Africans in this case as well as in human rights and antitrust law.
The class action includes thousands of former and present gold mine workers suffering from silicosis or tuberculosis and the dependents of deceased miners who ultimately died after contracting the often fatal diseases. The defendants argued vehemently against inclusion of the tuberculosis class, but Abrahams and Hausfeld presented strong medical evidence to support their inclusion, which the court endorsed. Certifying the class means that the litigation can seek compensation for the miners as a group in a more efficient and streamlined manner than if the miners had to bring thousands of individual actions.
The case was heard before the High Court in Johannesburg, from October 12-23, 2015, where counsel argued that the 30 named South African gold mining companies that owned or operated 82 different gold mines from 1965 to the present, knew of the dangers posed to miners by silica dust for more than a century. The case alleges that the South African mining industry failed to protect miners from silica dust and failed to use worker safety procedures used in mining elsewhere in the world during the Apartheid years and up until recent times. Richard Lewis of Hausfeld said “the case seeks to bring justice and restitution to the victims of the epidemic of occupational lung disease among South African goldminers, one of the most tragic public health disasters in recent history.” The miners are predominantly from South Africa and several other surrounding countries historically known for supplying migratory labor to the mining industry.
“This decision by the High Court is 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 tuberculosis due to their employment in poorly maintained working environments of the gold mining industry of South Africa,” said Charles Abrahams. “We continue to believe it is the only feasible method for sick gold mine workers to have access to justice.”
“The opinion explicitly and robustly recognizes that the class action legal tool is most needed and most appropriate when the poor and underprivileged seek justice against institutions in society they could never challenge on their own,” said Richard Lewis of Hausfeld LLP.
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