Gold Fields: On the Silicosis, Class Action, Matter

As gold mining giant, Gold Fields, released its quarterly update yesterday, many observers must have perused the statement with the word silicosis being a key reference point.

One of the largest gold producer’s in the world, Gold Fields together with other gold miners in South Africa is facing potential legal claims that it neglected workers who acquired the respiratory disease, silicosis, in the line of duty. Interest in the case was recently raised when prime target of the Silicosis movement Anglo American announced a settlement on 23 stand-alone silicosis claims. Coming after the South African gold mining industry had totally denied responsibility, Anglo’s move could open the floodgates. As such miners like Gold Fields who are cited in the silicosis movement are on high alert.

Here follows what Gold Fields had to say on the matter in yesterday’s statement.

“In and during 2012 two court applications were served on Gold Fields and its subsidiaries (as well as other mining companies) on behalf of various applicants purporting to represent a class of mine workers (and where deceased, their dependants) who were previously employed by or who are employees of Gold Fields or any of its subsidiaries and who allegedly contracted Tuberculosis or Silicosis.

These are applications in terms of which the courts are asked to certify a class action to be instituted by the applicants on behalf of a class of affected people.

According to the applicants, this is the first and preliminary step in a process, where if the court were to certify the class action, the applicants will in the second stage, bring an action wherein they will attempt to hold Gold Fields and other mining companies liable for the occupational diseases and the resulting consequences.

The applicants contemplate the second stage dealing with common, legal and factual issues regarding the claim arising for the entire class. If the applicants are successful in the second leg, they envisage that individual members of the class would later submit individual claims for damages against Gold Fields and other mining companies.

These applications do not identify the number of claims that would be instituted against Gold Fields and other mining companies or the quantum of damages the applicants may seek.

In addition to the class actions, an individual action has been instituted against Gold Fields and one other mining company in terms of which the Plaintiff claims R25,019,725 in respect of Silicosis which he claims was caused by the two defendants.

The two class actions were consolidated into one action during 2013 and the attorneys for the applicants in those matters have now applied to the court for a case management procedure in order to set times in which the parties have to comply with various legal processes and timeframes in terms of the application.

Gold Fields has entered notices to oppose the various actions and its attorneys are currently considering the opposition in detail.”




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