JOHANNESBURG, April 3 (Reuters) - South African petrochemicals group Sasol said on Friday that 22 current and former employees had submitted a civil claim against its mining unit regarding illnesses allegedly contracted while they worked for the company.
"We are currently assessing the lawsuit," said Sasol spokesman Alex Anderson.
"While we cannot provide further comment as the legal process is underway, Sasol Mining takes the protection of the health and safety of our employees and the employees of service providers very seriously," he said.
Sasol Mining produces about 40 million tonnes of coal a year in South Africa, most of which is used in the process to convert the fossil fuel into synthetic fuel and chemicals.
Anderson said the lawsuit was filed on behalf of the employees by Richard Spoor, whose legal battle against a South African asbestos mining company led to a $100 million settlement in 2003.
Spoor has also pursued claims on behalf of miners against South Africa's gold mining industry over the lung disease silicosis, caused by the inhalation of tiny particles of silica dust from gold-bearing rocks over many years without adequate protection. (Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by David Holmes)