22 April 2024
by Sarah Morgan

Appeal proceeds against Anglo American

Appeal proceeds against Anglo American on behalf of 140,000 Zambian women and children alleging lead poisoning culpability.

© Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

The Johannesburg High Court granted permission to appeal an earlier judgement that dismissed certification of the class action.

Amnesty International and several United Nations agencies intervened at the certification hearing to argue that Anglo American’s opposition to the class action was contrary to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Anglo American’s own human rights policy and publicly stated human rights commitments.

Justice Windell of the Johannesburg High Court previously ruled that a claim against Anglo American South Africa (AASA) over widespread lead poisoning across Kabwe, Zambia could not proceed as a class action.  

In granting permission, Justice Leonie Wendell found that an appeal against her earlier judgment had ‘reasonable prospects of success on at least one ground of appeal’ and that there were ‘compelling reasons to grant the appeal, as class action law is still being developed in South Africa’, and that ‘there are current matters of law of public importance which directly implicate constitutional rights’.

Kabwe, Zambia, was an Anglo American mine from 1925 to 1974. The claimants allege that on economic grounds, Anglo American failed to heed advice from international experts in 1970 that the topsoil should be replaced.

However, Anglo American argues that it adhered to standards that were acceptable in the 1970s, that the risk to future generations were not foreseeable, and that the company is therefore not liable to current inhabitants of Kabwe.

The Kabwe claimants will now take their case against AASA before the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa later this year.

Anglo American have said they will oppose any appeal that may follow.

The Kabwe claimants are represented by law firm Mbuyisa Moleele Attorneys with Leigh Day acting as consultants.

In a joint statement, Leigh Day partner Richard Meeran and Mbuyisa Moleele founding partner, Zanele Mbuyisa said, ‘Anglo American's arguments refuting its responsibility indicate a shocking indifference to the tremendous and ongoing harm caused to generations of the Kabwe communities by its operations. This is a concerning stance from a company that claims to be ‘re-imagining mining to improve people's lives’ through its Future Start Mining initiative. It is also in stark contrast to the human rights principles to which Anglo American claims to subscribe, as set out in their Group Policies.’

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