September 21, 2011

South Africa gold miners sue Anglo American

Former gold miners are suing the company Anglo American in the London High Court for allegedly damaging their health, as their lawyers have announced. According to them, the ex-workers were all suffering from lung diseases because of bad ventilation in the UK-based company’s South African mines. They are demanding millions of dollars compensation. In a response to the annoucnement Anglo American said it was “in no way liable”. Its representatice also said it had denied liability in answer to similar claims filed in South African courts, and maintained that “these gold companies which employed the mine workers were responsible for the health and safety of their employees and took reasonable steps to protect them”.

The 450 ex-miners allegedly suffered from an incurable lung disease called silicosis because of high dust levels in mines, said Leigh Day & Co, the London law firm representing them. The case was being fought in the London High Court because the company’s headquarters was in the city, it said. “Black miners at South African mines undertook the dustiest jobs, unprotected by respirators or – unlike their white counterparts – with access to on-site showers,” the firm furthermore stated. “Dust levels were high and they suffered massive rates of silicosis, a known hazard of gold mining for the last century.” Leigh Day & Co said the workers faced the health risks up to 1998. “Black miners known to have contracted silicosis were allowed to continue working in underground dusty conditions,” it also noted.

In recent years, Leigh Day & Co has launched several compensation suites in Africa. The firm has sued oil giant Shell over environmental degradation in Nigeria, transport firm Trafigura over the dumping of waste in Ivory Coast and the UK government for alleged human rights abuses during the colonial period in Kenya. Shell admitted liability, Trafigura denied any wrongdoing but agreed compensation with both the Ivory Coast government and Abidjan residents who said they became sick, while the UK-Kenya case is ongoing. (rts / Sadocc)

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