Anglo American to Oppose Appeal in Kabwe Lead Pollution Class Action Lawsuit

Anglo American to oppose appeal in Kabwe lead pollution case; court grants plaintiffs right to appeal, highlighting ongoing struggle for environmental justice in Africa.

Waqas Arain
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Anglo American to Oppose Appeal in Kabwe Lead Pollution Class Action Lawsuit

Anglo American to Oppose Appeal in Kabwe Lead Pollution Class Action Lawsuit

Anglo American, a leading global mining company, has announced that it will oppose any appeal by Zambian claimants in the Kabwe lead pollution class action lawsuit that was dismissed by the South African High Court in December 2023. The High Court had dismissed the certification application, citing multiple legal and factual flaws and determining that the class action was not in the interest of justice.

However, on April 19, 2024, the High Court granted the plaintiffs from Kabwe the right to appeal the dismissal. The judge found that the appeal had reasonable prospects of success on at least one ground and that there were compelling reasons to grant the appeal as class action law is still being developed in South Africa.

The class action case was brought against Anglo American's South African subsidiary, Anglo American South Africa, on behalf of 140,000 Zambian children and women for alleged lead pollution from the Broken Hill mine in Kabwe. Evidence submitted by the claimants shows that children in Kabwe suffered from lead poisoning due to the mining operations, and that Anglo American failed to heed advice to clean up the environment.

Why this matters: The Kabwe lead pollution case highlights the ongoing struggle for environmental justice and corporate accountability in Africa. The outcome of this appeal could set a significant precedent for holding multinational companies responsible for the long-term impacts of their operations on local communities and the environment.

Anglo American maintains that it is not responsible for the alleged lead pollution, as it only had a minority stake in the Broken Hill mine from 1925 to 1974. The company expresses sympathy for the situation in Kabwe but insists that the claims against it are "entirely misconceived". Anglo American argues that it adhered to acceptable standards at the time and that the risk to future generations was not foreseeable.

The Kabwe claimants will now take their case against Anglo American South Africa before the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa later this year. The class action was filed in South Africa as it would not have been possible for the claimants to obtain access to justice in Zambia. Amnesty International and UN agencies intervened to argue that Anglo American's opposition to the class action was contrary to human rights principles.

Key Takeaways

  • Anglo American to oppose appeal in Kabwe lead pollution lawsuit dismissed in 2023.
  • South African court granted plaintiffs right to appeal dismissal, citing prospects of success.
  • Lawsuit alleges Anglo American's mining operations caused lead poisoning in Kabwe children.
  • Anglo American denies responsibility, claims it adhered to standards at the time.
  • Kabwe claimants to take case to South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal later in 2024.