Class action from coal miners in South Africa

BHP Group, South32, and a unit of Seriti Resources may face a class action from coal miners with lung disease in South Africa who worked at the companies’ operations over the last six decades.

Richard Spoor, a South African lawyer who has won compensation for gold and asbestos miners with lung disease, filed a case with the country’s High Court on Tuesday seeking permission to launch a class action.

The Southern African Bishops Conference initiated the case and will seek relief for miners who have worked at the operations since 1965 and their descendants, Spoor’s legal firm said in a statement.

“Every breath can be a struggle in the life of a coal miner suffering from coal-mine lung disease,” Spoor’s firm said.

“Miners far too often walk away with incurable lung diseases that require life-long treatments they cannot afford. Many have tragically lost their lives.”

The case is the latest attempt to win compensation for miners and communities in southern Africa affected by the operations they worked at or lived near at times of laxer environmental standards. The papers were filed on behalf of 17 miners.

Spoor has won compensation for asbestos miners who worked for now-defunct South African mining titan, Gencor, and gold miners who worked for companies including Anglo American. Anglo is facing a separate suit over alleged lead poisoning near a mine in Zambia.

South32, BHP and Seriti didn’t answer queries sent outside of normal working hours. South32 was spun off by BHP. Neither currently mine coal in South Africa.

Motley Rice LLC will act as a legal consultant to the miners.