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28 Feb 2022

Andrew Tunnicliffe, Mining Technology (UK)

Zambia: Anglo American faces legal action over alleged lead poisoning caused by one of its mines

"Paying for the past: how long can a miner be held responsible?", 24 Feb 2022

… In October 2020, Leigh Day and Mbuyisa Moleele, a law firm specialising in public interest and civil litigation, filed a class-action lawsuit against Anglo American South Africa Limited (AASA), which could set a precedent for future rulings on the responsibilities of mining companies.

The action is on behalf of an estimated 100,000 individuals in the Kabwe District of Zambia, believed to have been poisoned by lead. Both firms say that the application was brought by 13 representatives on behalf of children under 18, and girls and women who have been, or may become pregnant in the future…

… it’s a case that has raised questions about the legitimacy of holding today’s Anglo American executives accountable for the actions of their predecessors and the impacts they had….

[The claim states] that the company “failed to take measures to prevent and minimise lead poisoning of the community; additionally, AASA failed to ensure the clean-up of the communities’ contaminated land”.

Countering questions as to whether ASSA should still be held responsible decades on, Mbuyisa says: “It is important to note that liability is not contingent on majority shareholding. It is alleged that AASA is liable because of its actual role in controlling, managing, supervising, and advising on the technical, medical, and safety aspects of the mine’s operations.”

For its part, Anglo American denied any responsibility in the face of “mass poisoning” accusations…

Together, the law firms called on AASA to immediately establish and support blood lead screening, provide financial compensation and contribute to the clean up and remediation of the area to ensure the health of future generations…