Anglo ordered to payout SA miners suffering from potentially fatal lung disease

Former gold miner Anglo American South Africa (AASA) – a division of Anglo American (LON:AAL) – has been ordered to payout 23 South African workers who developed silicosis – a potentially fatal lung disease – while working at the company's mines.

London's High Court had itself thrown out the case earlier this year, at which point lawyers took it to Johannesburg.

The cash amount has not been disclosed but Richard Meeran, the miners' lawyer, told Reuters that he and his clients were "very happy" with the deal.

In a release issued on Wednesday, the company noted that the settlement had been reached "without admission of liability."

It's expected that the ruling will have some impact on other similar claims – thousands of miners are suing Anglo and other companies in separate cases.

But Meeran told Reuters that "technically, no legal precedent has been set."

Anglo also wrote that it denied "any liability and will continue to defend the class action proceedings."

Eight of the 23 initial claimants have died from the illness since the suit was launched in 2004.

Silicosis, a condition caused by breathing in the silica dust found in mine, is very prevalent among South African mine workers. Its victims are also more prone to tuberculosis, a disease which affects between three and seven thousand in every 100,000 South African workers, a report by Think Africa Press claims. 

According to one report by Mail & Guardian, the disease kills 13 times more people in the mining sector than accidents do.

Today's settlement adds to an already troubled week for the London-listed miner.

The firm's platinum division (Amplats) is facing another trial and possibly strike action after cutting more than 3,000 jobs. 

Anglo also came under fire in Chile earlier this week for alleged breaches of environmental laws.

Creative Commons image by: Image Journeys Sasha Lezhnev