Anglo American chief executive Mark Cutifani. File picture: Leon Nicholas

Johannesburg - Anglo American SA (AASA) has settled a law suit brought by miners who claimed they had contracted silicosis while working for the company, it was announced on Wednesday.

“I'm delighted to announce this (Wednesday ) morning this claim has been settled,” Richard Meeran of British law firm Leigh Day told reporters in Johannesburg at a joint press conference.

This was the first time such a case had been settled in South Africa.

The case was brought by 23 miners, 18 of whom had worked at AASA's President Steyn mine in the Free State, who claimed they had contracted silicosis and silico-tuberculosis while working for the mining company up to 1998.

Five of the 23 were employed on other Anglo American mines in the Free State.

Eighteen of the claimants were South African while the other five were from Lesotho.

Of the claimants, 15 were living former miners and eight were widows of former miners, seven of whom were widowed after the case began in 2004.

“These cases are typical of the circumstances of hundreds of thousands of black miners,” said Meeran.

“...The (mining) industry was well aware of the risk of silicosis.”

He said mining safety measures were inadequate, evidenced by between 20 to 30 percent of long-term miners having contracted silicosis.

“That is an absolutely astronomical level of silicosis.”

The terms of the settlement were confidential.

When asked which party wanted the settlement confidential, Meeran said, “I think you can judge for yourself who wanted the settlement confidential”.

The miners were also represented by the Legal Resources Centre, and attorney Zanele Mbuyisa of law firm Mbuyisa Neale.

Legal Aid South Africa provided funding for the case.

Meeran said the claimants would receive their settlements within the next few weeks. - Sapa