South African gold miners near silicosis lawsuit settlement

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 10 (Reuters) - The class action brought by thousands of mineworkers who contracted lung diseases while working for South African gold miners has been postponed because the parties are close to a settlement, lawyers for the companies said on Wednesday.

A High Court in 2016 set the stage for protracted proceedings on cases dating back decades in the largest class action suit yet in Africa’s most industrialised country.

Many of the nearly half a million miners who contracted silicosis and tuberculosis are from nearby countries that supplied labour to South African mines.

African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold and Sibanye Stillwater are listed as respondents.

Attorneys representing all appellants and all respondents involved in the suit had requested the postponement, the companies’ lawyers said in a statement, adding settlement negotiations were at an “advanced stage”.

The Working Group on Occupational Lung Disease, which represents the six gold mining firms involved, said last year a provision for a settlement of around 5 billion rand ($361 million) had been made.

The suit, which has little precedent in South African law, has its roots in a landmark ruling given by the Constitutional Court in 2011 that for the first time allowed miners suffering from lung diseases to sue their employers for damages.

The case was scheduled to be heard from March 19. (Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Mark Potter)