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South African mining companies expect to settle silicosis suit in early 2018

A working group comprising six miners operating in South Africa in early 2018 expects to settle a massive class action brought by mine workers suffering from silicosis and occupational tuberculosis, having earmarked a total of 5 billion South African rand for the settlement, Business Day reported Dec. 20.

The group comprises African Rainbow Minerals Ltd., Anglo American Plc, AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., Gold Fields Ltd., Sibanye Gold Ltd. and Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd. and is headed by former Harmony Gold CEO Graham Briggs, who said talks with the class-action attorneys are "well advanced."

Attorneys for the workers who contracted silicosis and tuberculosis from working in gold mines said in November that an out-of-court settlement with mining companies could be reached by December, while the mining companies' settlement provisions have been reported since September.

The class action was allowed to proceed in May 2016, and Richard Spoor, one of the lawyers who brought the case to court, confirmed there is a draft deal on the table. However, Spoor said no agreement has been concluded yet and the final settlement amount would be disclosed later.

According to Spoor, the substantive terms of the settlement deal have been agreed upon and negotiations continue on improvements and the processes for implementation. The settlement amount would be paid into a trust that will operate for up to 15 years, tracking eligible claimants and disbursing their respective entitlements.