BHP, South32 May Face South Africa Class Action on Lung Disease

(Bloomberg) — BHP Group Ltd., South32 Ltd. and a unit of Seriti Resources Holdings Ltd. 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.

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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 Ltd., and gold miners who worked for companies including Anglo American Plc. Anglo is facing a separate suit over alleged lead poisoning near a mine in Zambia.

“South32 can confirm it has been served with an application for certification of a class action on behalf of certain mine workers at coal mines in South Africa,” the company, which ran coal mines in the country between 2015 and 2021, said in a response to queries. “This matter is currently being considered by the business. We are unable to comment further.”

BHP, which spun off South32, said it’s yet to receive the claim and hasn’t held mining interests in South Africa since spinning off South32 in 2015. It may respond once it has assessed the claim, the company said.

Seriti didn’t respond to queries.

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

(Updates with South32 comment in eighth paragraph)

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By Matt Earle

Matthew Earle is the Founder of MiningFeeds. In 2005, Matt founded to provide data and information to the mining investment community. This site was merged with Highgrade Review to form MiningFeeds. Matt has a B.Sc. degree with a minor in geology from the University of Toronto.

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