JOHANNESBURG Oct 1 Anglo American Plc's
South African unit will face a hearing next year to determine if
it is liable for miners who contracted lung disease silicosis
while working in the company's gold shafts, lawyers for the
plaintiffs said on Monday.
Anglo American no longer has gold assets in South Africa,
but the proceedings, initiated by 18 plaintiffs, have been
launched on the grounds that miners contracted the debilitating
disease when the company still ran bullion mines.
The arbitration hearing is scheduled to begin on Sept. 2,
2013 and will be presided over by a panel including South
Africa's former chief justice, Sandile Ngcobo, they said.
"The hearing will determine if Anglo American South Africa
is liable to compensate the plaintiffs," said Richard Meeran, a
partner at UK-based law firm Leigh Day & Co, which is
representing the miners along with the Legal Resources Centre
and Legal Aid South Africa.
A spokesman for Anglo American in South Africa said he was
not immediately able to comment.
The case is separate from a silicosis class action suit
filed in August against AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields
and Harmony on behalf of thousands of workers
In the Anglo American case, proceedings were first issued in
2004 by 18 former gold miners who are suffering from silicosis.
Three of these men have since died.
Legal and industry experts have said the different suits, if
successful, could cost the industry billions of dollars.
Miners contracted silicosis, which has no known cure, by
working in gold mines for many years without adequate
protection. The silica dust that causes the disease is inhaled
from gold-bearing rocks.
The disease causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough
and chest pains. It also makes people highly susceptible to
tuberculosis, which can kill.
Tens of thousands of black miners from South Africa and
neighbouring countries are believed to have contracted silicosis
during the decades of white apartheid rule, when their health
and safety were not priorities of the country's gold barons.