A silicosis class action by gold miners is to be launched against Anglo American SA (AASA) in the Johannesburg High Court on Thursday, the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) said.
It said the application was being made on behalf of the miners by the LRC, Garratt Mbuyisa Neale (GMN) attorneys, London-based firm Leigh Day and Legal Aid SA.
"The application in the High Court in Johannesburg is being served on AASA today [Thursday]. AASA is believed to have assets in the region of US15 billion (R135 billion)," the LRC and LD said in a statement.
Anglo American SA's potential silicosis liability was the most substantial of any gold mining company, the LRC said.
The centre said lawyers had been working on litigation for nine years to secure compensation for miners suffering from silicosis, an occupational lung disease caused by exposure to dust.
"Eighteen claims relating to miners employed on AASA's President Steyn mine in the Free State were filed in 2004," the LRC said.
"AASA was the head office parent company of the Anglo American group comprising 11 gold mines until 1998. It is alleged that AASA negligently controlled and advised its mines with regard to prevention of dust exposure and silicosis."
The President Steyn cases were in an advanced state of preparation and expected to be heard over four months from February to June 2014.
The arbitration hearing would be heard by former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, and retired Appeal Court justices Ian Farlam and Noel Hurt.
"The decision of these arbitrators is expected to be influential in laying down the principles to be applied to the wider class of cases," the LRC said.
Comment from Anglo American SA could not be immediately obtained.