1. What is the silicosis settlement all about?
In 2012, class action litigation was bought by Richard Spoor, Abrahams Kiewitz and the Legal Resources Centre against a number of gold mining companies to provide compensation for gold mine workers who were exposed to silica dust and got sick with either silicosis or tuberculosis.
The mining companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye-Stillwater.
After four years of complex legal negotiations, on 3 May 2018, the claimants’ attorneys and the gold mining companies reached an historic settlement agreement. There has been extensive engagement on the proposed settlement with all stakeholders from government, industry, labour and organisations working with former gold mineworkers in the labour supplying areas. Every effort has been made to be as inclusive as possible. In terms of the South Gauteng High Court’s 2016 certification judgment, any settlement was required to be approved by the same court.
For current and ex gold mineworkers, this settlement provides an opportunity to receive a medical examination and much needed compensation for those eligible claimants suffering from silicosis and, also for tuberculosis under conditions covered by the settlement.
The aim is to ensure that all eligible former and current mine employees who have contracted these occupational illnesses from their employment are compensated in a fair way.
2. What court proceedings followed the settlement agreement?
13 December 2018 - The settlement agreement, which includes the trust deed, was provisionally approved by the Court on 13 December 2018. The terms of the settlement have since been widely advertised in South Africa and neighbouring countries on radio, newspapers and mine and recruiting office notice boards at a cost of some R14 million.
29 – 30 May 2019 - The hearing on whether the High Court should approve the settlement agreement reached on 3 May 2018 was heard on 29 to 30 May 2019, in terms of the court’s order of 13 December 2018. Parties to the settlement made submissions to the court on why it should approve the settlement.
No objections to the settlement were received from members of the settlement classes. Many of them have been very positive about the settlement and are eager for the Trust to be established as soon as possible.
26 July 2019 - A full bench of the South Gauteng High Court approved the settlement of the silicosis and TB class action suit.
3. What does the settlement actually result in?
Gold mine workers or their dependants (wife, partner, children) if the mineworker has passed away, might be eligible for compensation if the mineworker got sick with silicosis or certain types of tuberculosis caused by his or her work at certain gold mines at any time after 12 March 1965.
The list of qualifying mines can be found on the website www.silicosisettlement.co.za.
A few legal steps and processes set out in the settlement agreement still need to be taken before the settlement fund, which will be called the Tshiamiso Fund, can be established. Only then will the fund be able to start paying compensation to eligible mineworkers or their dependants (wife, partner or child).
Note 1 - Not all existing and former/orphan mines are included in this settlement agreement, and there will be current and former mineworkers who will not qualify for compensation from this settlement.
The settlement applies to the listed mines essentially for the periods that they were owned and/or managed by the six companies to the settlement agreement and their subsidiaries. Employees of gold mines that were not owned or managed by these companies for all or part of the period since March 1965 (the time from which this settlement covers) would not be eligible for compensation for those periods of employment.
Note 2 - Point 1 will also affect the amount of compensation even if there was some service on qualifying mines i.e.: modifiers.
The settlement agreement contains formulae for assessing the magnitude of settlement entitlements for such employees. The formula roughly allows for pro rata payments for the time of employment on listed mines for the periods they were owned or managed by the six companies. Anyone employed on such mines at such times for 20 years or more (or their dependants) would be entitled to the full compensation related to their circumstances and conditions.
4. How much compensation will eligible claimants receive?
The amounts to be paid to eligible claimants are from R10,000 to R250,000, depending on the nature and severity of the disease and whether the recipient is the sick mineworker or a dependant. In certain exceptional circumstances, this amount may be increased to up to R500,000.
If an ex-mineworker or his or her dependants are eligible for compensation the money will be paid directly to them in full, they don’t need to pay anyone a commission to help them.
There are various criteria that will determine whether a person is eligible for compensation. The Trust’s officials are the ones that will help to process claims and to determine if a claim meets the criteria for compensation.
5. Who will pay the compensation?
The six gold mining companies and the claimants attorneys will set up the Tshiamiso Trust which will make sure that the payments are made to qualifying claimants. [Tshiamiso means ‘to make good’].
Because of the last legal steps that still need to be taken, the Trust Fund will probably only be set up towards the end of this year at the earliest.
The Tshiamiso Trust will communicate how to claim compensation.
6. What is the overall sentiment of the gold mining companies and the claimants’ attorneys?
It has taken four years of extraordinary patience and cooperation by all parties to get to the point where we are on the cusp of the settlement agreement and trust deed being approved by the Court. We appreciate the very significant contributions that all stakeholders have made to bring about a settlement which provides meaningful compensation to eligible workers suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis (and their families in the case of deceased mineworkers), and which forms part of a comprehensive solution to issues relating to compensation for occupational lung disease in the gold mining industry in South Africa.
We look forward to working with all stakeholders, in the same spirit of cooperation, to bring about the settlement as quickly and fairly, as possible, to ensure that the benefits due to eligible claimants are not delayed.
1. What happens now that the court has approved the settlement agreement?
Potential claimants will be provided, in terms of the settlement agreement and the court order, a period of 60 days to indicate whether they wish to opt out of the settlement agreement.
An extensive radio and newspaper campaign will take place to inform potential claimants of their right to opt out of the agreement.
Once this process is complete, including the settlement agreement becoming effective, the establishment of the Settlement Trust (The Tshiamiso Trust) can begin, and its work of the processing of payments to eligible beneficiaries.
All parties believe that the settlement agreement reached ensures that all former and current mine employees who have contracted silicosis or tuberculosis from their employment are compensated in a reasonable, fair and adequate way, and will do everything possible to ensure that the agreement holds.
1. How will the settlement trust be structured?
The settlement agreement includes a draft trust deed in terms of which the Tshiamiso Trust will be established.
After many months of negotiation with the claimants’ lawyers and engagement with key stakeholders and after careful consideration it was decided that the number of trustees should be limited to no more than seven in order to ensure an agile and efficient trust, whose primary objective is ensuring that eligible claimants are traced, medically examined and compensated as quickly as possible.
The trustees will comprise three members from the Working Group companies; two from the claimants’ lawyers; one from the Minister of Health and one consensus trustee (jointly appointed by the Working Group companies and the claimants’ lawyers).
The parties are particularly pleased that May Hermanus has accepted nomination as the consensus trustee and first chair of the Tshiamiso Trust. Her background includes periods as NUM health and safety officer, Chief Inspector at the DMR, director of Wits University’s Centre for Sustainability in Mining Industry (CSMI) and director of the CSIR’s Natural Resources Unit.
2. Why are there no representatives of unions or NGOs on Trust?
The need for employee and society representatives to have input into the operation of the Trust was anticipated, and for that reason a Trust Advisory Committee will be established once the Trust is registered. This will be the ideal forum for government, labour unions, community leaders and non-governmental organisations, who are represented on the Trust Advisory Committee, to advise, give input, and raise concerns with the trustees of the Trust.
3. When will the trustees be appointed and their names announced?
The parties are pleased to announce that May Hermanus has accepted nomination as the consensus trustee and first chair of the Tshiamiso Trust. Her background includes periods as NUM health and safety officer, Chief Inspector at the DMR, director of Wits University’s Centre for Sustainability in Mining Industry (CSMI) and director of the CSIR’s Natural Resources Unit.
The other trustees will be announced in due course.
1. Who can apply for compensation?
Current and former gold mineworkers who worked in the companies mines listed on the www.silisocissettlement.co.za website at any time after 12 March 1965, and who have contracted silicosis or TB caused by their work or the dependants (wife, partner, child) of an ex-mineworker who died from silicosis or tuberculosis contracted while working underground on one of these gold mines.
- To register is free
- To claim compensation is free
- The medical benefit examination will be free
WHAT STILL NEEDS TO HAPPEN BEFORE PAYMENTS TO CLAIMANTS CAN BEGIN
THE TSHIAMISO TRUST
WHAT CURRENT AND FORMER GOLD MINEWORKERS DO NOW TO REGISTER
Who stands to benefit?
- Current and former workers who worked in these companies’ mines from 12 March 1965, and who have contracted silicosis.
- Dependants of deceased former mineworkers who worked in these companies from 12 March 1965, and who were certified as having contracted silicosis.
- Current and former workers who worked in these companies’ mines from 12 March 1965, and who contracted certain severe forms of TB.
- Dependants of deceased former mineworkers who worked in these companies from 12 March 1965 and, subject to certain conditions, whose primary cause of death was TB.
Are you eligible to apply?
You may be eligible to claim compensation if:
- You are a mineworker who worked at one of these gold mines listed from 12 March 1965, or you are a dependant of a mineworker who worked at these gold mines during this time.
- You have been certified by the Medical Bureau for Occupational Disease (MBOD) as having silicosis or tuberculosis, or you are the dependant of someone who died from silicosis or tuberculosis.
- You have symptoms of silicosis or TB, such as chest pains, shortness of breath and excess coughing, and you were exposed to dust at one of the gold mines listed from 12 March 1965. You will need to be examined and certified to confirm you are eligible.
What should you do now?
If you think you meet these criteria, and you would like to receive more information when and if the agreement becomes final, you may fill in your contact details here:
If you have not already lodged a claim with the MBOD for statutory benefits, it would be a good idea to do so now. Here’s more information on how this can be done.
Warning: You MUST NOT pay anyone for information on this settlement, or to register for the benefits, or to have your benefit medical examination done. Further information, registration and medical benefits examinations are FREE.