Mining giant ‘turned a blind eye’ to lead poisoning in Zambia

Mining giant Anglo American knew that toxic fumes and dust from a mine in Zambia poisoned local women and children, but failed to address the case, lawyers told a South African court on Friday.

Lawyers for some of the alleged victims have taken their case to a Johannesburg court which will decide whether to greenlight a class action against the company’s South African subsidiary.

Anglo informed of the dangers

Anglo American denies responsibility.

Prosecutors argue that tens of thousands of people who live in Kabwe, a town 150 kilometers (95 miles) north of the Zambian capital Lusaka, suffered lead poisoning, which can lead to brain damage and death.

Also read: Court grants role to UN experts in Zambia v Anglo American

“Angelo knew about these risks, or at best turned a blind eye to them,” Gilbert Marcus, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in court, said in his opening statement.

“Children were already getting sick and dying of lead poisoning, and a high percentage of them had high levels of lead in their blood while they were taking over the mine.”

Anglo American said it was not responsible for the pollution, as it was indirectly involved in the mine.

The case has been brought by 12 Kabwe residents who are seeking compensation from the company.

They applied to the South African High Court on behalf of a group of about 140,000 women and children believed to have suffered from poisoning.

Three UN Special Rapporteurs – on toxic substances, human rights, extreme poverty and people with disabilities – have been admitted to legal proceedings to support applicants.

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The plaintiffs argue that decades of mining have turned Kabwe and the surrounding area into “one of the most polluted places in the world.”

Kabwe mine operated from 1906 to 1994.

Anglo American was directly involved from 1925 to 1974, when it oversaw the works and provided technical and medical advice, according to the claimants.

Anglo American “never owned” a mine in Zambia

Marcus said the “toxic legacy” of the mine is still being felt because “lead is a long-standing, multi-generational poison.”

Also Read: Zambia’s copper mines are severely racist in the workplace by calling whites ‘expats’

Anglo American said it was “not correct” to attribute legal responsibility to it for the current situation at Kabwe, as it “never owned or operated the mine”.

In a statement on Friday, it said the site had always belonged to the state-owned Consolidated Copper Mines of Zambia and “former companies,” adding that it could not be held responsible for “pollution and harm caused by others and freely admit their responsibility.” .

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