A class action suit has been filed against 30 gold mines on behalf of 17 000 former miners who claim they contracted the disease silicosis while working in the mines, SABC reported on Friday.
Silicosis is an incurable lung disease caused by inhalation of dust with crystalline silica from gold-bearing rocks.
The miners, who are from South Africa, Botswana and Lesotho are being assisted in the class suit by local attorney Richard Spoor.
He said he had been receiving around 500 complainants every month.
The public broadcaster reported that Anglo-Gold Ashanti, Harmony Gold and Anglo American's South Africa unit were among the 30 mines to face the court action.
The mines could be held liable for negligence in health and safety.
The damages sought in what could be Africa's biggest ever class action suit, could be huge -- at a time when South Africa's mining industry is battling with soaring power and wage costs and violent labour militancy, the SABC reported.