Anglo American South Africa (AASA) has settled the long-running silicosis litigation brought by 23 formers mineworkers who had alleged that they contracted the disease from breathing dust while working in the company’s mines.

The cases were filed against the mining company between 2004 and 2009, and alleged that the mineworkers contracted silicosis and silico-tuberculosis by working in dusty goldmines without adequate protection.

Under the terms of the settlement, AASA will pay all 23 claimants, including 18 President Steyn Mine claimants. The size of payouts has not been disclosed.

The other five claims are reported to have come from employment on other Anglo American Free State mines.

The claimants were underground miners employed on Free State mines including President Steyn within the AASA group until 1998.

AASA executive director Khanyisile Kweyama said the company believes that agreeing to settle the long-standing litigation is in the best interests of the plaintiffs, their families, and the company’s wider stakeholders.

"We continue to work with industry, government and civil society to tackle the many challenges of primary health care in South Africa," Kweyama added.

"Our collective objective is to significantly improve the access and quality of care available to all South Africans as well as ensuring a healthy and safe working environment for all our employees."

AASA however said the settlement has been reached without admission of liability by the company.

The claimants’ lawyers comprised UK-based human rights company Leigh Day, the Legal Resources Centre (South Africa) and attorney Zanele Mbuyisa.

Richard Meeran from Leigh Day, who first brought the suit against AASA in 2004, said the claimants have at last got justice.

"We urge the gold mining companies to establish an industry-wide settlement scheme without delay. The writing is now on the wall," Meeran said.

Leigh Day said the agreement was the first gold miners’ silicosis settlement in South Africa.

Image: Claimants and lawyers from Leigh Day and the Legal Resources centre following the decision. Photo: Courtesy of Leigh Day.