Observer on Saturday - - News - By Bodwa Mbingo

Emaswati that worked in the South African mines and in the process ac­quired silicosis will be el­i­gi­ble for up to E500 000 each while those that are suf­fer­ing from TB will be el­i­gi­ble for up to E100 000 in com­pen­sa­tion.

In a landmark case, thou­sands of for­mer gold mine work­ers who con­tracted silicosis and tu­ber­cu­lo­sis from South Africa’s un­der­ground shafts signed a E5 bil­lion out-of-court set­tle­ment with min­ing com­pa­nies on Thurs­day.

The com­pen­sa­tion comes from the E5bn set aside by six gold min­ing com­pa­nies last year to set­tle the coun­try’s big­gest civil suit in South Africa and fi­nally solve a 100-year-old prob­lem that has rav­aged the health of thou­sands of minework­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to Busi­ness Re­port, the out-of-court set­tle­ment was signed by five gold min­ing houses in Johannesburg yes­ter­day, bring­ing an end to the class ac­tion that was brought against them by thou­sands of minework­ers who in­haled sil­ica dust while un­der­ground in mines.

An­gloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, An­glo Amer­i­can South Africa, Sibanye Still­wa­ter, African Rain­bow Min­er­als and Har­mony Gold Com­pany last year set aside the E5bn for the vic­tims. Pan African Re­sources is still con­sid­er­ing the set­tle­ment.

Gra­ham Briggs, con­vener of the Oc­cu­pa­tional Lung Dis­eases work­ing group, said the out-of-court set­tle­ment brought cer­tainty to the case, which dates back to 2006.

“A set­tle­ment of this na­ture brings cer­tainty as well as a so­lu­tion. It also brings pay­outs sooner than class ac­tions and lit­i­ga­tion pro­cesses,” Briggs is quoted as hav­ing said.

Al­most all the claimants are from South Africa, as well as neigh­bour­ing Botswana, Lesotho Zim­babwe, Eswatini and Malawi.

Of­fi­cials an­nounced on Thurs­day that each em­ployee who suf­fered from silicosis would be el­i­gi­ble for up to E500 000 each.

Those who suf­fered from TB would be el­i­gi­ble for up to E100 000 in com­pen­sa­tion.

Hu­man rights lawyer Richard Spoor, who rep­re­sents 30 000 for­mer em­ploy­ees, said the out-of-court set­tle­ment meant a bal­anc­ing act for the claimants.

“We had pres­sure to set­tle quickly and pres­sure not to set­tle cheaply,” said Spoor. Le­gal Re­sources Cen­tre (LRC) and Abra­hams Kiewitz also rep­re­sented the work­ers.

The LRC said the set­tle­ment pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to re­ceive a med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion and much-needed com­pen­sa­tion for ex-mine work­ers and has al­lowed an al­ter­nate to ex­tended lit­i­ga­tion and the risks in­her­ent to that ap­proach.

Trade union Sol­i­dar­ity said the set­tle­ment would be a booster for for­mer min­ers who are suf­fer­ing from one or both lung dis­eases. It is sub­ject to a court process.

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