Miners in South Africa could face lawsuits from workers

The Constitutional Court in South Africa has kicked open the door to class-action lawsuits against mine owners.

The lawsuits could cost miners billions of rand after the court ruled yesterday that mineworkers who had been laid off because of occupational diseases can sue their employers, Business Day reported:

The court handed down judgment in the matter of Thembekile Mankayi, who had sued AngloGold Ashanti for damages of R2.6m.

Mr Mankayi passed away last Friday of lung disease.

Mr Mankayi’s attorney, Richard Spoor, said yesterday he would not take Mr Mankayi’s case on its own to the high court for damages as he was preparing a class action on behalf of thousands of mineworkers .

“We will proceed on a broad front. The doors are open for mineworkers to seek justice,” Mr Spoor said. The human rights lawyer had led a class action lawsuit against Gencor on behalf of thousands of workers suffering from asbestosis. This case was settled out of court in 2003.

Mr Mankayi received compensation of R16320 in 2004 for contracting silicosis and pulmonary tuberculosis . When he sued AngloGold Ashanti for R2,6m in the South Gauteng High Court in 2008, the company argued that he was not entitled to sue in terms of section 35(1) of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act .

The high court upheld the company’s exception and the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Mankayi’s appeal.

Delivering a unanimous judgment, Constitutional Court Justice Sisi Khampepe said yesterday that the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act did not preclude Mr Mankayi from suing the mine.

Delivering a unanimous judgment, Constitutional Court Justice Sisi Khampepe said yesterday that the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Act did not preclude Mr Mankayi from suing the mine.

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