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Silicosis - South Africa

In landmark cases pursued in South Africa, Leigh Day worked with South African lawyers for 4,388 former miners against Anglo American South Africa Ltd (AASA) and AngloGold Ashanti (AngloGold).

The case was brought against these companies  for failing to protect their workers from excessive  dust. Silicosis, a debilitating and incurable lung disease, affects as many as 25% of South African miners. Silicosis sufferers have a much higher risk of contracting tuberculosis. Tuberculosis combined with silicosis is very serious and often fatal. Most of the claimants reside in rural areas in South Africa and Lesotho, from which so-called “migrant labourers” were recruited under apartheid, and where tuberculosis is endemic.

In September 2013, AASA agreed to pay compen- sation to 23 test claimants. This case, brought in conjunction with the South African Legal Resources Centre, was the first ever settlement of silicosis claims for gold miners in South Africa. The test cases were commenced in 2004 and took 9 years to conclude.

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Leigh Day and South African attorney Zanele Mbuyisa then pursued a mass silicosis group claim against AASA and AngloGold on behalf of 4,365 former gold miners or relatives of deceased gold miners. 

A landmark settlement was reached in March 2016 on behalf of the victims for R500 million (£23 million). The settlement vehicle that was established is called the Q(h)ubeka Trust: Qubeka was the surname of the lead claimant in the litigation, and “Qhubeka” means “go forward” in Xhosa. The function of the Trust is to medically assess the claimants and evaluate their eligibility for compensation. This settlement will first and foremost bring much needed financial relief to the victims and their families. The settlement scheme provided a model for subsequent settlement of a silicosis class action in South Africa.

 
 

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