The Johannesburg High Court in South Africa has given a green light to allow the gold miners, who are infected with dust-related lung diseases due to working in unsafe conditions in the mines, to file institute class action against gold mining companies.
With the new ruling, the existing as well as former miners can file class action against the mining companies seeking damages for the dust-related lung diseases, silicosis and silico-tuberculosis, due to working in unsafe conditions in the mines.
Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo was quoted by Reuters as saying: "We hold the view that in the context of this case, class action is the only realistic option through which most mine workers can assert their claims effectively against the mining companies."
The incurable lung disease silicosis is believed to be caused due to inhaling of silica dust while performing drilling.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) said: "So many lives have been destroyed by the reckless failure of mine bosses to ensure that mineworkers are not exposed to the silica dust.
"Mining companies have been and are still the biggest beneficiaries of the colonial and apartheid capitalism that still haunts this country’s economy."
COSATU insisted that the mining companies should compensate the victims of the silica dust and also ensure there is an industry-wide training and retraining scheme to help miners to posses useful skills.
Urging for a restructuring of the mining industry, COSATU said that the government should also take 50% ownership of all mining companies in the country.
Meanwhile, Sibanye Gold said that the gold companies were studying the ruling and would decide on whether to appeal against the court decision.
Sibanye Gold said in a statement: "The companies remain of the view that there are issues related to compensation and medical care for occupational lung disease that need to be addressed through engagement between stakeholders, with a view to designing and implementing a comprehensive solution that is both fair to past, present and future gold mining employees, and also sustainable for the sector."