S African court okays USD 350 million settlement for stricken miners

Johannesburg: A South African court on Friday approved a five-billion-rand (USD 350-million) settlement agreement in a class action against six gold mining giants brought by thousands of mine workers who caught silicosis. The agreement covers those who worked for African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Stillwater between March 1965 up to the present.

A Johannesburg court said "all the parties made an effort to ensure that the settlement agreement is reasonable, adequate and fair." "The negotiations yielded the best possible settlement terms that the parties could find in the circumstances," it said. The deal is expected to benefit more than 100,000 former mine workers, who caught the lung disease, or their dependents.

It was a result of years of legal battles after the Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled that mineworkers who had often accepted paltry compensation for their ill-health, could still sue. Many of those affected were poor migrant labourers originally from countries neighbouring South Africa including Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique.

South Africa's mines, which have attracted workers from across the region in the 130 years following the discovery of the world's largest gold deposits, remain some of the world's deepest and most dangerous. A parliamentary committee on mineral resources welcomed the move.

"We believe that justice has finally prevailed, and that going forward, mining companies should always put the safety of workers first in order to prevent diseases that could potentially occur long after retirement," said Sahlulele Luzipo.

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