Lawyers for thousands of gold miners afflicted by silicosis or tuberculosis this week asked the Gauteng High Court to approve a R5bn settlement agreement, signed with five mining companies, as 'fair, reasonable and adequate'.

The agreement, which followed the case being declared a class action suit in December 2016, provides for the payment of benefits to mineworkers and the dependants of dead mineworkers who contracted silicosis or pulmonary tuberculosis during or after their employment from 1965.

The benefits will be paid through the Tshiamiso Trust, set up specifically for this purpose, reports GroundUp.

The mineworkers are represented by class action pioneer Richard Spoor Inc, Abrahams Kiewitz Inc and the Legal Resources Centre, and the settlement agreement is regarded as one of the most complex multi-party class action settlements ever concluded.

Though the five mining companies and the mineworkers have reached agreement on the benefits to be paid, the court will have to assess whether absent mineworkers are adequately protected by the agreement.

The mining companies have secured guarantees for the R5bn claim, though the eventual claim could be higher. Of this, R845m has been set aside for administering the Tshiamiso Trust, which will accept claims for a period of 12 years, plus one additional year to wrap things up.

Affected mineworkers will be paid out between R70 000 and R500 000 depending which of the four categories of claimants they fall into.

Should the court approve the settlement, the class action suit against the five mining companies will be suspended, though will be continued against those companies that chose not to settle.

Five mining groups are party to the settlement: African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye-Stillwater. The mining groups that opted to settle rather than continue fighting through the courts will be protected against any future liability arising from the same claims.

Mining companies that elected not to participate in the settlement are DRD Gold, East Rand Proprietary Mines, Randgold and Exploration, Evander Gold, Blyvooruitzicht Gold, Doornfontein Gold, Simmer and Jack Mines and African Rainbow Minerals.

Doornfontein and Blyvooruitzicht are no longer operating and have since been deregistered.

Full GroundUp report