Johannesburg - A South African former miner diagnosed with silicosis will attend an annual general meeting of Anglo American in London on Thursday, said his lawyers.
Anglo American [JSE:AGL]
used to employ Daniel Thakamakau, said Richard Meeran, of Leigh Day & Co, which represents former gold miners diagnosed with mining-related lung diseases.
"He is one of over 1 200 former gold miners who have brought proceedings against Anglo American SA Ltd in the South African and (United Kingdom) courts, alleging the company negligently exposed miners to excessive amounts of silica dust."
The miners claim that exposure to the silica dust caused them to contract the lung diseases silicosis and silico-tuberculosis.
Thakamakau said in a statement that he would ask the mining company for medical assistance and fair compensation.
"While Anglo American became rich from the work that we did on their mines, we are now suffering. The tuberculosis is so bad that I am unemployable."
He said Anglo American had treated him and his colleagues "like animals".
Thakamakau would be accompanied by representatives of the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) and National Institute for Occupational Health former director Tony Davies.
Anglo American spokesperson Pranill Ramchander said it "had the deepest sympathy for those miners who have contracted silicosis
but ... Anglo American South Africa does not believe that
it is any way liable for the silicosis claims brought by former gold
mine workers and is defending the actions."
He said the firm believed that the claims against it are "ill founded".
"The claimants were employed by South African gold mining companies in which Anglo American South Africa had an interest of less than 25%. Anglo American South Africa maintains that these companies, which owned and operated the mines, were responsible for the health and safety of their employees and took reasonable steps to protect them," said Ramchander.
He said that Anglo supported initiatives to ensure that sufferers of silicosis received the proper treatment and statutory compensation. Moral responsibility
Num spokesperson Peter Bailey
said: "Anglo American has a moral and corporate responsibility to compensate the sick miners on whose backs the company became rich."
"The time for talk about providing medical services for these hard-working men is over - it is time to act."
Meeran said bringing the case to the UK was in the miners' interests because English courts had "well-developed case management procedures and the claimants will be entitled to UK damages against the company".
He said the miners could potentially be awarded hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation.
The High Court in Johannesburg has been involved in the litigation of 18 individual claims by ex-miners from Anglo's President Steyn Mine in the Free State since 2004.
The British litigation involves a mass tort action, in which Leigh Day & Co represents 1 200 South African former miners, and began in September.
The matter would resume in the high court in London on May 9, Meeran said.