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Saturday, December 3, 2022

Anglo American Sued on Behalf of Children and Women Poisoned by the World’s Biggest Toxic Lead Mine

Health Anglo American Sued on Behalf of Children and Women Poisoned by the...

Lawyers from Mbuyisa Moleele and Leigh Day today announced that a class action lawsuit has been filed against Anglo American South Africa Limited (“AASA”), a subsidiary of London-headquartered multinational mining company Anglo American Plc (LSE: AAL, JSE: AGL), in the Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa. The action has been filed on behalf of a class estimated to comprise more than 100,000 individuals in the Kabwe District of Zambia who are believed to have been poisoned by lead. The application is brought by 13 representative plaintiffs on behalf of children under 18, and girls and women who have been or may become pregnant in the future.

The claimants – principally young children – are suffering from alarming levels of lead poisoning which, depending on various factors including the blood lead level (“BLL”), causes a range of significant conditions, from psychological, intellectual and behavioural damage to serious and permanent physical damage to their bodily organs, neurological systems and fertility. In extreme cases, serious brain damage and deaths occur. In pregnant women, lead they ingested as children is absorbed into their bones and released during pregnancy. Women are also exposed to lead during pregnancy from the surrounding environment. Lead is known to cross the placenta, resulting in the unborn child being subjected to the same concentration of lead as the mother. Not only can the baby’s health be damaged, lead causes pregnant women to have a higher risk of pre-eclampsia; gestational hypertension and miscarriage.

Generations of children have been poisoned by the operations of the Kabwe mine, originally known as Broken Hill, which caused widespread contamination of the soil, dust, water, and vegetation. The main sources of this poisonous lead were from the smelter, ore processing and tailings dumps. The BLLs of the vast majority of children in Kabwe exceed the BLL limit of 5 micrograms per decilitre set by the U.S. Center for Disease Control. A substantial proportion of the children have BLLs in excess of 45 ug/dl, the limit at which medical treatment is required. There are numerous cases of young children (including among the representative plaintiffs) with BLLs in excess of 100 ug/dl, at which serious brain damage and death may occur.

The Kabwe mine was part of AASA group from 1925 until 1974 and was one of the world’s most productive lead mines during this time. It is alleged in the class action that AASA is liable, including for the following, because of AASA’s role in controlling, managing, supervising and advising on the technical, medical and safety aspects of the mine’s operations:

  1. a) Substantial emissions of lead into the local environment were due to deficiencies in the design and systems of operation and control of lead, which AASA failed to ensure were rectified;
  2. b)          AASA failed to ensure the clean-up of the communities’ contaminated land; and
  3. c)According to experts[1], around two thirds of the lead currently in the local environment is likely to have been deposited there between 1925 and 1974 when the mining operation was transferred to ZCCM, a Zambian state-owned company, in 1974.

The class action seeks to pursue remedies in the form of compensation for these children, as well as girls and women with lead poisoning who have or may become pregnant in the future. Also sought is (a) blood lead screening for children and pregnant women in Kabwe, and (b) clean up and remediation of the area to ensure the health of future generations of children and pregnant women is not jeopardised. 

Richard Meeran, Partner & Head of the International Department at Leigh Day, said: “From the 1950s, Anglo American publicly committed to making a lasting contribution to communities in which it operated.  Its current human rights policy is to contribute to remediation when its business has contributed to adverse human rights impacts. This ongoing public health disaster is the result of a flagrant disregard for the health of the local community, which is totally at odds with those grand public pronouncements.”

Zanele Mbuyisa, Partner at Mbuyisa Moleele, added“AASA is considered a mining giant that has been instrumental in building the economies of various countries, but it also has to be acknowledged that their operations have caused the decimation of communities and long-lasting damage to the health of those communities.”

Mbuyisa Moleele is a Johannesburg-based law firm led by Zanele Mbuyisa, and Leigh Day is a leading international law firm specialising in human rights and mass environmental tort claims. Both firms have a proven track record of litigating complex international class actions on behalf of victims from disadvantaged backgrounds. The case is being funded by Augusta Ventures, the UK’s largest litigation fund by volume of claims.

More information about this matter can be found at www.childrenofkabwe.com


  1. The commission of inquiry came at the right moment. Anglo America and the crooks that sold our mines did more damage to Zambians than PF or upnd cadres even know.

  2. This is a very good development indeed. But what about NCCM (Nchanga Consolidated Copper Mines) and later ZCCM’s (Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines) liability? Did lead stop being poisonous after 1974? Mining continued from 1974 until about 1996 or thereabouts.

  3. Nzelu, I doubt it u have any nzelu because lead doesn’t become poisonous only when it’s being mined by a non-state-owned company. Between 1974 and 1996, the mine in Kabwe was under ZCCM. What will happen to the liability for this period?

  4. Given this development, how then will Bally HH fix the Zambian economy by bringing back Anglo-American Mining Company? Is the intention of Bally HH to see to it that poor Zambians suffer the negative consequences of mining operations at the hands of Anglo even more?

  5. What a Load of rubbish ….. I drove through last week and in the Mine area people are living in offices houses set up as well as restaurants and drinki8ng places so where is governments concern ????????
    They just looking for easy bucks

  6. This case is going nowhere. The funders of this lawsuit are Augusta ventures which are venture capitalists meaning vultures. They go around suing big corporations on behalf of poor people in the hope that the corporations will give them something off the table just for them to drop the suit as they corporations don’t like bad publicity. Once money has changed hands a small token will be given to the litigants just for using their name.

  7. These are Bally’s funder whom he in turn promised mines if he had won the 5 previous elections and if he wins the 2021 elections. We do not need Anglo-American to come and re-take over the mines after dumping and abandoning the miners, mines suppliers and any busines directly or indirectictly when Anderson Mazoka lost the elections a few years ago. And that is one of the numerous reasons HH MUST NEVER be given any chance near state house. He is a sellout.

  8. The reason they don’t sue ZCCM is its govt owned and the govt is broke, in all these class actions only the law firms get the money, the poor get a enough to buy a bag of Millie meal. Never trust a lawyer, for proof just look at our President

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