In a landmark settlement, the country's largest gold mining companies have agreed to set aside R5-billion in a trust, to be awarded to miners suffering from silicosis or tuberculosis that they contracted while working on the mines.
According to Business Day, the settlement was signed in Johannesburg on Thursday, but still needs to be ratified by a court.
This reportedly means that the sick miners or their dependents could be awarded settlements of between R70,000 and R500,000 each. There are ten classes of claimants who may benefit from the settlement, and there is no limit on the number of potential claimants.
The seven mining companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American SA, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony Gold, Sibanye-Stillwater and Pan African Resources.
The parties reportedly said in a statement: "For mineworkers, this settlement provides an opportunity to receive a medical examination and much-needed compensation for those suffering from silicosis and/or tuberculosis, without the need to pursue extended litigation and the risks inherent with that approach.
"For the companies in the working group, this represents a huge step towards their previously stated goal of a comprehensive solution to issues relating to compensation for occupational lung disease in the gold mining industry in SA that is both fair to past, present and future gold mining employees, and also sustainable for the sector."
The settlement was reached in an effort to avoid drawn-out litigation, Fin24 reported. The R500,000 settlement amount will be reserved for those claimants suffering from "extraordinary disease conditions which exceed most other claimants".
Those eligible to claim are those who contracted the diseases from March 12 1965 until the present day.
According to Bloomberg, South Africa's gold mines have produced a third of all the gold in the world, and remain among the deepest and most dangerous, even after the end of apartheid. According to the settlement, silicosis treatment programs must also be established by the companies in South Africa, but also in countries where miners originated from, like Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe.