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Miners set aside silicosis funds

Thursday, 27 July 2017

As many as 100,000 former workers are part of SA’s biggest class action in which 32 respondents are named

Gold Fields and Anglo American have set aside more than $130m between them for a possible settlement with miners who contracted lung diseases at work.

A class action suit, mostly relating to the fatal lung disease silicosis, was filed on behalf of mine workers in 2012 and has unnerved an industry that has been battling rising costs and generally depressed prices.

Anglo American said on Thursday it had set aside $101m and Gold Fields said it had made a provision of $30.2m.

he suit covers thousands of mine workers who contracted silicosis. The firms were granted leave to appeal a 2016 high court ruling and Gold Fields said its case would be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal in March 2018.

Gold Fields said the outcome remained uncertain and “the provision is consequently subject to adjustment in the future”.

Anglo American also said its provision was “subject to adjustment or reversal in the future”.

It no longer has gold assets, but claims against it stemmed from before it divested from the sector in 2009.

Silicosis causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough and chest pains. Mine workers contract it from inhaling silica dust from gold-bearing rocks.

Several mining companies have formed a working group on the issue, the Occupational Lung Disease Working Group.

Gold Fields said it was “of the view that achieving a comprehensive settlement which is both fair to past, present and future employees and sustainable for the sector is preferable to protracted litigation”.

Harmony Gold also said it would make a provision but could not provide details before its annual results, due out on August 17.

“Harmony is in the process of finalising their year-end financial results together with going through the necessary audit reviews and internal governance processes and we will be recording a provision,” said spokeswoman Lauren Fourie.

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