(Alliance News) - A class action lawsuit has been filed against Anglo American PLC's South African unit over alleged lead poisoning from the Kabwe mine in Zambia, lawyers representing the claimants announced on Wednesday.
Shares in FTSE 100-listed Anglo American were down 0.3% at 1,967.00 pence each in London on Wednesday afternoon. In Johannesburg, it was down 0.2% at ZAR422.53.
Anglo American said it will "review the claims made and will take all necessary steps to vigorously defend its position".
"By way of context," the company added in its response, "Anglo American was one of a number of investors in the company that owned the Kabwe mine until the early 1970's. Anglo American was, however, at all times, far from being a majority owner. Furthermore, in the early 1970's the company that owned the mine was nationalised by the government of Zambia and for more than 20 years thereafter the mine was operated by a state-owned body until its closure in 1994."
The Kabwe mine was part of Anglo American South Africa from 1925 until 1974. It was then sold to ZCCM, a Zambian state-owned company.
The lawsuit has been filed by Johannesburg-based law firm Mbuyisa Moleele and UK human rights attorneys Leigh Day against Anglo American South Africa Ltd in the Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa. The suit 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 law firms said that "the claimants â€“ principally young children â€“ are suffering from alarming levels of lead poisoning which, depending on various factors including the blood lead level, 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.
"The blood lead levels 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."
The lawsuit is seeking compensation from Anglo American South Africa. It claims that the company did not rectify deficiencies in its operations at Kabwe mine which resulted in substantial lead emissions and thereafter failed to clean-up the contaminated land.
"According to experts, 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," a statement on behalf of the law firms read.
By Tapan Panchal; firstname.lastname@example.org
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