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Issue #1731      May 18, 2016

Mine workers’ class action

South African trade unionists celebrated last week after a Johannesburg court ruled that gold miners who contracted lung diseases while working underground can launch a class-action suit against mining companies.

Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo’s ruling also applies to families of miners who died of such diseases and opens the way to litigation involving tens of thousands of miners and spanning decades of cases.

It will put pressure on a mining industry that has delivered huge profits for shareholders and minimal returns for miners but which complains now of rising costs.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions hailed the ruling as a “huge victory” for the working class.

It urged all affected miners and families of those who died from diseases they developed in the mines to join legal action against the most prominent mining firms in the country.

The federation noted that the miners “did the back-breaking work to build this economy and this country and they deserve justice.”

Many miners became sick because they rarely had proper gear to protect them against dust inhalation. They suffer from diseases such as silicosis and tuberculosis.

Earlier this year, a group of gold miners infected with lung diseases caused by repeated exposure to mine dust won a multimillion-pound out-of-court settlement.

Lawyers represented thousands of clients in the suit against Anglo American South Africa and AngloGold Ashanti, but some miners died before they had a chance to be compensated.

The mining companies claimed that this settlement had been reached without any admission of liability.

Morning Star

Next article – Empire of dirty money

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