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20 Oct 2020

Class action lawsuit against Anglo American South Africa Ltd (re lead poisoning, Zambia)


Date lawsuit was filed
20 Oct 2020
Location of Filing: South Africa
Location of Incident: Zambia
Type of Litigation: Transnational


Anglo American United Kingdom Mining
Anglo American South Africa South Africa Mining



In October 2020, lawyers and Zambian communities living near the Kabwe lead mine filed a class action against Anglo American South Africa in the Johannesburg High Court, alleging that Anglo American failed to take adequate steps to prevent lead poisoning of local residents, including children, from 1925 to 1974. The case is ongoing.

Factual Background

Kabwe was one of the world’s largest lead mine and operated from around 1915 until its closure in 1994. The mine is situated in close proximity to villages comprising around 230,000 residents. Tens of thousands of Kabwe residents, including children, are estimated to have developed high blood lead levels, mainly through ingestion of dust contaminated by emissions from the mine smelter and waste dumps. A series of published reports has found very high levels of lead in the blood of a substantial proportion of the local population, in particular young children.

Legal Argument

The Kabwe mine is alleged to have been within Anglo American SA group control from 1925 until 1974, during which time it was one of the most productive mines in the region. It is alleged that Anglo American SA is liable because it played a key role in controlling, managing, supervising and advising on technical, medical and safety aspects of the operations of the mine, deficiencies in which resulted in heavy contamination of the local environment with lead, which then poisoned the local community over a period of decades and several generations. It is alleged that the risk of lead poisoning of the community was, or ought to have been, foreseen at the time by Anglo American SA and that Anglo American SA was negligent by failing to ensure that any or any adequate steps were taken to minimise the risk of harm to the community.

Legal Proceedings

On 20 October 2020, UK law firm Leigh Day in conjunction with Johannesburg attorneys Mbuyisa Moleele filed a class action against Anglo American South Africa Ltd in the Johannesburg High Court in South Africa, where the head office of the company and proposed defendant, Anglo American South Africa Ltd, is based.

The hearing started on 20 January 2023. You can watch it live here.

Court documents

Notice of Motion filed requesting the certification of the class action filed in the Johannesburg High Court in South Africa.

To access the Applicant Affidavits click here.

To access the Expert affidavits click here.

This case profile is based on the background information provided by Leigh Day. For more information, visit the Children of Kabwe website here.