LAWSUIT AGAINST A MINING GIANT, ANGLO AMERICAN GROUP
Nine mining companies owned by the Anglo American Group face legal action for miners’ diseases.
Today, the Catholic Bishops and the Richard Spoor attorneys have helped the sick miners to launch a class action against global mining company Anglo American Group seeking legal remedies for sick miners and the families of workers who died due to coal mine dust lung disease (CMDLD) in the form of pneumoconiosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Filed by Richard Spoor in the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Local Division, this application for certification of a class action seeks recourse for current and former coal miners, as well as dependents of deceased workers who contracted the illness.
The application was initiated and facilitated by the Southern African Catholic Bishops under its Justice and Peace Commission.
The Anglo American Group’s policy places an emphasis on accountability, ensuring that any breaches are met with appropriate actions in line with both Group and local laws.
Therefore, the global mining company should act on its promise to ensure the rights of its former employees are restored and that they get justice and compensation in this lifetime for the damages caused to their health while working in these mines.
As Cardinal Stephen Brislin, the Archbishop of Cape Town, and the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, who initiated the class actions said:
“The class action which is to be brought against Anglo American is an important endeavour to access the rights of previous employees who are suffering from debilitating coal dust diseases. It is incumbent on companies and employers to ensure that workers have access to protective health equipment and that they be given adequate training to ensure their safety. When companies fail to do so, reparation and compensation are essential in order to assist the affected workers to access health care, that they have sufficient funds for their livelihoods and that they are able to support their families.”
Anglo American Group
This application for certification of a class action is being brought against nine mining companies owned by the Anglo American Group, and was filed by Richard Spoor in the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Local Division on October 18, 2023.
It follows action filed against South32, BHP Billiton PLC and Seriti Power on 15 August 2023 to bring recourse to current and former coal miners, as well as dependents of deceased workers who contracted coal mine dust lung disease (CMDLD) in the form of pneumoconiosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after exposure to coal mine dust in mines.
The Anglo American Group began mining in South Africa in 1917, and has since expanded its operations into 15 other countries. According to its social policy, the company supports ethical mining, including human rights and safety by identifying and managing social and human rights impacts and risks related to labour, security, communities, health and the environment.
Yet the legal team launching the class action has testimony from miners that indicate the opposite.
For example, applicant Ntombi Mahlangu who worked at Anglo-owned Goedehoop Coal Mine and Greenside Coal Mine between 2002 and 2008, was diagnosed with Coal Mine Dust Lung Disease in May 2023.
“I was in good health for the duration of my employment at the mines. My health began to deteriorate in recent years when I began to suffer from chest pains, coughing and sneezing,” she explained.
“My health has not returned to normal, despite my attempts at maintaining a healthy lifestyle. My chest has become very heavy and the pains have worsened. I cough and wheeze a lot. I am not on any medical treatment, I rely on over-the-counter medication to ease the coughing and sneezing,” she said.
Coal miners’ pneumoconiosis is a scarring or fibrosis of the lungs. COPD is a chronic lung disease that can be characterised by breathing difficulty and airflow limitations. Both pneumoconiosis and COPD caused by coal dust are wholly preventable diseases. Despite knowing the risks to coal miners, members of the coal mining industry failed to provide their workers with adequate training, equipment, and a safe working environment, the litigation alleges.
The applicants’ claim is based on delictual causes of action for the respondents’ wrongful breach of their duties to the mineworkers employed by them or who worked in their mines, under the common law, the applicable legislation and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa from 1996.
The nine defendants include:
- Anglo American South Africa Limited
- Thungela Resources Limited
- South Africa Coal Operations
- Thungela Operations
- Thungela Resources Holdings
- Anglo American Inyosi Coal
- Mafube Coal Mining
- Butsanani Energy Investment Holdings
- Rietvlei Mining
This lawsuit is therefore a significant attempt to address the historical issues faced by coal miners who have unfortunately not been compensated for their hardships. If the court agrees, the legal action will involve many miners and their families, considering the sacrifices these miners have made for work.