Mining giant accused of "turning a blind eye" to lead poisoning in Zambia
According to attorneys testifying before a South African court, mining behemoth Anglo American was aware that women and children in the area were being poisoned by toxic dust and fumes from a lead mine in Zambia but did nothing about it.
Before a Johannesburg court that will decide whether to approve a class-action lawsuit against the British company's South African subsidiary, plaintiffs' attorneys presented their case on Friday.
Anglo American disputes guilt.
The plaintiffs contend that lead poisoning, which can result in brain damage and death, has affected thousands of residents of Kabwe, a community 150 kilometers (95 miles) north of Zambia's capital, Lusaka.
Gilbert Marcus, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, stated in his opening remarks that "Anglo knew of these concerns or, at best, turned a blind eye to them."
Children were already becoming ill and dying from lead poisoning, and many of them had extremely high blood lead levels while it controlled the mine, he testified in court.
Since it was only involved in the mine in a secondary way, Anglo American has claimed that it is not to blame for the contamination.
Twelve inhabitants of Kabwe have filed the lawsuit and are seeking compensation from the business.
On behalf of a group of over 140,000 women and children who are thought to have been poisoned, they petitioned a high court in South Africa.
In order to support the applicants, three UN special rapporteurs on toxics and human rights, extreme poverty, and people with disabilities have been admitted to the court hearings.
The plaintiffs contend that Kabwe and the surrounding area have become "one of the most contaminated places in the world" as a result of decades of mining.
Kabwe Mine was in operation from 1906 to 1994.
According to the claims, Anglo American was intimately involved from 1925 until 1974 when it oversaw the works and offered technical and medical advice.
Lead is a long-lasting, generational toxin, according to Marcus, therefore the mine's "toxic legacy" is still being felt today.
Anglo American claimed that because it has "never owned nor operated" the mine, it is "not correct" to hold the business legally responsible for the present events in Kabwe.
According to a statement released on Friday, the property has always belonged to the state-owned Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines and its "predecessor firms," and it cannot be held accountable "for pollution and suffering that others have produced and willingly acknowledged as their responsibility."
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