South African mineworkers who contracted the respiratory disease silicosis have won a "landmark" settlement against mining giant Anglo American, ending a long-running claim, their lawyers said Wednesday.
"This is the first gold miners' silicosis settlement in South Africa," legal firm Leigh Day said in a statement.
The London-based firm said the terms of the monetary settlement for the 23 miners were "confidential."
"Today’s settlement gives a significant boost to silicosis victims’ quest for an industry-wide settlement scheme," it said.
Former mineworkers employed by the firm claimed they got silicosis, which has no known cure, from inhaling dangerous levels of silica dust while drilling rocks in goldmines.
When miners are exposed to excessive amounts, silica dust lodges in the lungs and permanently scars the organ.
Symptoms include persistent coughing and shortness of breath, and the disease often leads to tuberculosis and death.
The cases were brought in 2004 and 2009. Lawyers said seven claimants had died during the course of the trial and that others were in poor health.
They added that the settlement was in their "best interest".
The case was due for an arbitration hearing next year.
"We urge the gold mining companies to establish an industry-wide settlement scheme without delay," said lawyer Richard Meeran.
Anglo American's South African affiliate confirmed that "the settlement has been reached without admission of liability."
Anglo American moved its headquarters from Johannesburg to London in 1999, a year after grouping its gold operations into Anglo Gold, now Anglo Gold Ashanti.
It has since sold its gold interests.
The company also faces a separate class-action suit brought by around 4,000 miners.