Up to half a million gold miners have been given the go-ahead to launch class action lawsuits after contracting fatal lung diseases underground.
The South African High Court ruled that workers who’d died of silicosis and tuberculosis could also be included, with any damages being paid to family members.
“In the context of this case, class action is the only realistic option through which most mine workers can assert their claims effectively against the mining companies,” Justice Phineas Mojapelo ruled. “This is the only avenue to realise the right of access to court, which is guaranteed by the constitution.”
Each mining company “will be held liable or responsible for their own actions for unlawful emissions,” the panel of three judges unanimously ruled.
Medical research indicates up to half of former gold miners have silicosis, which in turn makes sufferers extremely vulnerable to tuberculosis, meaning the suits could cost the industry hundreds of millions of euros.