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Eighteen miners who claimed they contracted deadly silicosis working at an Anglo American gold mine in South Africa slapped the firm with a class action lawsuit on Thursday, lawyers said.
The miners claimed they got the incurable disease from inhaling dangerous levels of silica dust while drilling rocks at Anglo's President Steyn Gold Mine, in central Free State province.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal actions against gold mining firms in South Africa.
Five of the 18 claimants have died since the case started in 2004, one of the lawyers, Richard Meeran, told AFP, adding that he hoped the case would set a precedent.
The case will go for a final arbitration hearing in February next year in Johannesburg before three prominent judges.
The judges include the former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo and a retired Appeals Court judge Ian Farlam. Farlam is currently chairing an inquest into the killing last year of 34 platinum mine workers by police at Marikana.
When exposed to excessive amounts, silica dust gets locked into the lungs and permanently scars the organ. The result is silicosis, a disease which does not have a cure.
Symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath.
In a separate case from 2011 over silicosis some 2,300 South African miners lodged a class action against Anglo American in London. But the gold miner has challenged the jurisdiction of a British court to hear the matter.
In December, another attorney Richard Spoor launched what is so far the biggest class action involving more than 17,000 mostly black workers who allegedly contracted the disease while working the mines across Africa's top gold producing country.