The Catholic Church said on Wednesday it is shepherding a class action against mining companies in South Africa on behalf of coal miners who suffered from lung disease.

The Southern African Bishops Conference said lawyers filed papers with South Africa’s High Court on Tuesday.

“Very often ex-mine workers are no longer members of trade unions and therefore lack the means and capacity to seek legal recourse from large companies which are responsible for their lung diseases,” said Archbishop of Cape Town Stephen Brislin.

“It is thus incumbent on the Church to give assistance where it can… so that they can access compensation that is legally due to them.”

The miners are represented by Richard Spoors, a lawyer who has won compensation in similar cases before.

Filed on behalf of 17 former and current mine workers, the case targets global mining giant BHP, its spin-off South32 and South Africa’s Seriti, Dasantha Pillay, a lawyer with Spoors’ firm, told AFP.