JAMES AKENA, REUTERS

Johannesburg - A full bench of the Johannesburg High Court approved a historic R5 billion settlement agreement to compensate thousands of sickly gold mineworkers in their landmark silicosis and tuberculosis class action lawsuit.

Delivering her judgment on Friday morning Judge Leoni Windell said: "All the parties made an effort to ensure the settlement agreement is reasonable, adequate and fair. The terms of the settlement agreement demonstrate that they succeeded in their efforts."   

The negotiations, Windell said, yielded the "best possible settlement terms that the parties and stakeholders could find in the circumstances".   

The six mining firms who have funded the settlement form the Occupational Lung Disease Working Group (OLD), which consists of African Rainbow Minerals‚ Anglo American SA‚ AngloGold Ashanti‚ Gold Fields‚ Harmony and Sibanye Stillwater.  

Richard Spoor Inc, Abrahams Kietwitz Inc and the Legal Resources Centre represented thousands of mineworkers and their dependents.

"We wish to express our indebtedness to all the legal teams, which represented various parties in this matter for the commendable manner in which they discharged their duties to their clients and to this court," Windell said. 

The agreement covers eligible mineworkers in the gold industry suffering from silicosis, an occupational lung disease caused by the inhalation of silica dust, and/or tuberculosis, from March 12 1965 to date.  

"The aim of the settlement agreement is to provide compensation to those beneficiaries, in addition to - and, in most instances in excess of - the compensation available  under the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act," said Judge Windell in her judgement.  

With R845m in funding from the OLD, the Tshiamo Trust, which means to "make good" or "to correct" in Setswana, will track and trace class members, process all submitted claims, including the undertaking of benefit medical examinations and the payment of benefits to eligible claimants.

Judge Windell said the trust will service claims for a period of 12 years and operate for an additional period of one year to finalise any outstanding claims that were lodged with it during the preceding 12 years.

Saturday Star