Richard Spoor
Rainmakers & Potstirrers

Richard Spoor

DIRECTOR: Richard Spoor Inc Attorneys

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‘We seek justice for those whose work has sent them home bearing the high cost of coal on their bodies’

RICHARD Spoor is at the coal face of efforts to hold South Africa’s mining sector accountable for past sins. A human rights lawyer with a passion for justice, Spoor, who spearheaded the R5bn silicosis class action settlement against South Africa’s gold sector, has now taken aim at the coal sector.

In August 2023 he applied for certification of a class action against South32, BHP Billiton and Seriti Power over occupational lung diseases, in a case initiated by the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference. When the sacred and the secular join forces in South Africa, things often get done. The class action has since been expanded to include former Anglo American assets such as Thungela Resources and Exxaro Resources. Pneumoconiosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are the main illnesses the suit says miners contracted because of their exposure to coal dust. Given the precedent set by the silicosis suit against gold producers – and Spoor has the backing of Motley Rice LLC, one of the largest plaintiffs’ litigation firms in the US – Spoor seems to be sowing the seeds of another legal victory.

This could have huge implications for the coal sector that is increasingly being starved of capital amid a public backlash at the link between fossil fuels and climate change. That could potentially herald a faster settlement than that obtained against the gold sector, which took several years. Coal mining certainly does not want its reputation tarnished further as it runs out of investment options. So expect Spoor to keep making headlines.


Spoor is a towering figure in South African legal circles, and not just because of his physical height. He has taken on powerful industries such as the gold sector over the incurable lung disease silicosis and done right by his clients. Not one to sit on a point of view he relaxes by flying planes or cycling. In some ways he is a rare breed: he is not anti-business, but social justice is an abiding concern.

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