JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s Gold Fields and global mining group Anglo American have set aside over $130 million between them for a possible settlement with miners who contracted lung diseases at work.
A class action suit, mostly relating to the fatal lung disease silicosis, was filed on behalf of miners in 2012 and has unnerved an industry that has been battling for years with rising costs and generally depressed prices.
Anglo American said it has set aside $101 million and Gold Fields said it had made a provision of $30.2 million.
“The ultimate outcome of these matters remains uncertain, with a possible failure to reach a settlement or to obtain the requisite court approval for a potential settlement. The provision is consequently subject to adjustment in the future,” Gold Fields said in a statement.
Anglo American also said its provision was “subject to adjustment or reversal in the future.”
AngloGold Ashanti declined to comment on whether it had set aside money for the lawsuit.
Silicosis causes shortness of breath, a persistent cough and chest pains. Miners contract it from inhaling silica dust from gold-bearing rocks.
Anglo American no longer has gold assets but claims against it stem from the period before it divested completely from the sector in 2009.
Several mining companies have formed a working group on the issue – The Occupational Lung Disease Working Group – and Gold Fields said it was “of the view that achieving a comprehensive settlement which is both fair to past, present and future employees and sustainable for the sector, is preferable to protracted litigation.”