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26 Jan 2023

Amnesty International

So. Africa: Supreme Court hears class action lawsuit against Anglo American filed by residents of Kabwe (Zambia) seeking compensation over lead poisoning

"South Africa hears historic class action for lead poisoning launched by Zambian  children and women", 23 janvier 2023

The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg will continue hearing a ground-breaking case brought by Zambian children and women against the mining giant Anglo American, seeking compensation for lead poisoning, human rights groups announced today.

At the end of the 12-day hearing that opened on 20 January, the Court will decide whether to certify this unprecedented class action demanding that Anglo American South Africa remedy the adverse health impacts of its mining activities in the District of Kabwe, Zambia. If the case proceeds, it will offer a unique opportunity for residents of Kabwe to have a day in court and secure judicial remedies for the alleged human rights abuses associated with Anglo American’s business operations ...

This lawsuit has the potential to set a key legal precedent and fill an important accountability gap. For years, human rights organizations have been amplifying residents of Kabwe’s calls for justice internationally. At the hearing, representatives of the United Nations Special Procedures will also have a chance to present legal argument regarding corporates’ responsibility to remediate harm ...

SALC’s Socio-Economic Rights Cluster Lead, Brigadier Siachitema, highlighted that:

This case is not just another class action. Its certification is important not only to the people of Kabwe but to anyone who suffered human rights abuses as a result of transboundary corporate conduct by a South African company. South African courts have the power to level the imbalance and close the accountability gap that exists in practice. ” ...

The Kabwe lead mine—once known as the “Broken Hill”mine— was allegedly operated and managed by Anglo American between 1925 and 1974 and reportedly contributed to extensive environmental pollution in towns and communities living in the vicinity of the mining site.

Today, experts describe Kabwe as a “sacrifice zone” and one of the most lead-polluted places on earth. Medical studies have shown that children from Kabwe have record-high levels of lead in their blood. Children and pregnant women are at particular risk from lead toxicity, which is known to cause permanent damage to internal organs, including the brain.