Mining company Anglo American SA (AASA) has been ordered by a High Court in the United Kingdom to release documents to South African gold miners suing the company, the miners’ lawyers said on Monday.
“At hearings in May and June, the claimants sought disclosure of documents that would shed light on where key decisions regarding AASA’s business were in fact taken,” Richard Meeran, of Leigh Day & Co, said in a statement.
AASA had argued the company was centrally administered in Johannesburg and not in London, which made the miners’ claim unarguable.
Under European law, English courts have jurisdiction over a company that has its central administration in England.
The miners claim that exposure to silica dust caused them to contract the lung diseases silicosis and silico-tuberculosis.
The judge concluded there were a number of factors which led to the miners having an arguable case that AASA was centrally administered in London.
“The judge referred to the roles of Godfrey Gomwe [AASA CEO] and his close working links with Anglo American plc and of the London-based Anglo Group management and executive committees,” said Meeran.
Without the document disclosure, there was a large risk that the miners were contesting jurisdiction at an unfair disadvantage, the judge said.
Meeran said bringing the case in the UK was in the miners’ interests, since English courts had well-developed case management procedures for handling mass legal actions.
The miners would be entitled to damages at UK levels, he said.
The UK litigation involves a mass tort action, in which Leigh Day & Co represents over 1500 South African former-miners, and began in September.
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.