Richard Spoor has filed a class action lawsuit against coal miners South32, BHP Billiton and Seriti Power

  • Human rights attorney Richard Spoor has filed a class action lawsuit in the High Court of South Africa on behalf of coal miners against coal mine operators South32, BHP Billiton and Seriti Power. 

The application for certification of a class action seeks recourse for current and former coal miners, as well as dependants of deceased workers who contracted the Coal Mine Dust Lung Disease (CMDLD). The applicants seek to hold South32, BHP Billiton PLC, and Seriti Power responsible for actions from March 12, 1965, to the present.

The proposed applicant classes include current and former coal miners who contracted CMDLD in the form of pneumoconiosis (with or without COPD).

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“Current and former coal miners who contracted COPD after working in a South32, BHP Billiton PLC, and Seriti Power. Dependants of coal miners who have died due to the illness. The applicants argue that South32, BHP Billiton PLC, and Seriti Power breached the legal duties owed to the miners by failing to implement statutorily mandated procedures and protections. As a result, the miners developed incurable lung diseases,” said Richard Spoor.

The case was initiated by the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference.

“In exchange for backbreaking work that has generated enormous wealth for more than a century, miners far too often walk away with incurable lung diseases that require life-long treatments they cannot afford. Many have tragically lost their lives,” said Spoor.

One of the applicants, Maiwana Jan Nkosi, 65, who worked in a mine between 1981 and 2016, was diagnosed with Coal Mine Dust Lung Disease in 2020. “I experience constant chest pain. At night I must sleep in a particular position to try to relieve the chest pain. My coughing and wheezing sometimes wake me up at night. When I walk quickly it feels like my chest is blocked, and I must stop and rest for a while. When I walk up an incline, I experience chest pain and can only walk very slowly. I often run out of breath. The impact this illness has had on myself, and my family has led to my inability to work after leaving the mine. My breathing is laboured, and I am not able to do physical work. Maintaining a job in my condition would be near impossible,” Nkosi said.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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