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16 Dec 2023

// Agence Ecofin (Suisse)

Class action lawsuit against Anglo American over alleged lead poisoning in Zambia cannot go ahead, rules South Africa's High Court

"South African court denies class action against Anglo American", 16 December 2023

South Africa’s High Court has ruled that a class action lawsuit against miner Anglo American brought by victims of alleged historic lead poisoning in Zambia should not go ahead, lawyers for the claimants said on Saturday.

Victims of the alleged poisoning had accused Anglo’s South African unit of negligence in controlling emissions of lead into the local environment at a mine it part-owned 50 years ago in Zambia’s Kabwe district.

Anglo has previously denied the allegations and vowed to defend itself...

Anglo partly owned the Kabwe lead mine some 50 years ago. The mine was later owned by Zambian state-owned firm ZCCM-IH until 1994 when it was closed...

The victims will appeal the ruling, the lawyers said.

Among the concluding arguments in the ruling, the court said the application was seeking permission to advance an untenable claim that would set a grave precedent.

“The precedent is that a business could be held liable half a century after its activities have ceased, to generations not yet born, as a result of being tested against future knowledge and standards unknown at the time,” the ruling said.

The court also said the class action would be “unmanageable” in that it would take a long time to be completed, after the applicants estimated it would take ten years for their legal team to take instructions from every member of the proposed classes...