Leon Nicholas, Leon Nicholas, INLSA
The South Gauteng High Court’s approval of the historic R5 billion silicosis class action settlement for thousands of former mineworkers who contracted pulmonary tuberculosis or silicosis on South Africa’s gold mines weighed heavily on their JSE share prices.

The shares of Anglo American South Africa, Sibanye-Stillwater, Harmony Gold, AngloGold Ashanti, African Rainbow Minerals, and Gold Fields lost ground on Friday after the full bench of the court approved the R5bn compensation for former mineworkers and the dependants of dead mine workers. 

Harmony Gold Mining Company closed 0.42 percent lower at R35.23 a share, AngloGold Ashanti lost 0.6 percent to R264.18 a share, Anglo American plc fell 3.3 percent at a R369.18 share, Sibanye-Stillwater closed 0.05 percent lower at R18.53 a share, Gold Fields was 1.03 percent lower at R76.18 a share and African Rainbow Minerals lost 2.17 percent at R177.94 a share.

DRD Gold, which opted out of the lung disease settlement, closed 2.16 percent higher at R4.73 a share on Friday. “It’s not good news for the companies,” Rene Hochreiter, an investment analyst at Johannesburg based Noah Capital, said on Friday.

The R5bn settlement brings an end to the seven-year battle for ex-mine workers and their families and will see the ex-mineworkers receiving claims of between R70 000 and R500 000 each.

The claims will be paid over a period of 12 years from the Tshiamiso Trust, which means make good in Setswana. Tshiamiso was set up by the companies and will be responsible for ensuring that all the claims are paid.

The court said around R845 million would be set aside for identifying and locating the claimants. As part of the settlement, the companies are expected to make an initial payment of R1.4bn in the first two years of the trust’s life, and thereafter provide further payments required by the trust to make payments to the claimants.

Judge Leoni Windell said the settlement agreement was not intended to, and could never make full redress for the loss and harm suffered by goldmine workers, their families and communities over the last 100 years as a result of the epidemic of lung disease that afflicted them, and the system of migrant labour and racial discrimination that sustained this epidemic. Windell said all the parties made an effort “to ensure the settlement agreement is reasonable, adequate and fair”.

The class action was instituted in 2012. Many of the claimants are aged, and over the last 6 years 30 percent or 18 of the original 56 class members in the original class certification had died. Windell said the settlement was reached because litigation would be a long and drawn out process that could last more than 10 years.

Judge Bashier Vally said in his judgment that given the nature of the compensation in the class action, it would be wrong to seek the perfect amount for each claimant.

BUSINESS REPORT