Anglo American sued in SA for Zambia poison scandal; Durban oil spill; UK dividends plummet; gold; rand

By Jackie Cameron

  • A group of Zambian women and children are suing Anglo American Plc in South Africa, in one of the biggest class actions in Africa, alleging the mining company caused widespread lead poisoning from a mine it owned until 1974 in the northern city of Kabwe. Bloomberg reports that the case, which is demanding compensation and a clean-up of the area, was filed in a Johannesburg court on Wednesday by 13 plaintiffs on behalf of an estimated 100,000 people, according to law firms Leigh Day and Mbuyisa Moleele. The firms plan to apply for a class action suit, it says. Anglo American will “defend its position,” the company said. “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 firms said in a statement. “The main sources of this poisonous lead were from the smelter, ore processing and tailings dumps.” The group lawsuit is the latest over its decades of mining in southern Africa. In 2018, Anglo and five other companies paid about $390m to settle a class action by former gold miners suffering from the respiratory disease silicosis, continues Bloomberg.
  • The US and Europe are heading for a clash over their preferred candidates to lead the World Trade Organization as the selection of the first woman to run the referee of global commerce enters a pivotal phase, reports Bloomberg. The European Union is inclined to support Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and may sign off on that position Wednesday, people familiar with the process said. Other observers say the Trump administration is leaning toward South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee. Okonjo-Iweala has strong support from groups including the 55-member African Union, says the news agency.
  • South Africa’s state-owned pipeline operator Transnet said it’s cleaning up a crude oil spill in the eastern city of Durban that was caused by attempted fuel theft, a practice that’s been ongoing despite measures taken by the company, says Bloomberg. Tampering caused a spill on Oct. 19 that contaminated the uMbilo River and reached the harbor area. Transnet Pipelines has had over 80 incidents of fuel theft this financial year that involve tampering with infrastructure.
  • UK companies’ Q3 dividend payouts were the lowest for ten years and almost half the level seen in Q3 2019, according to the Link Dividend Monitor. British firms paid just £18bn to shareholders in Q3 2020 on a headline basis, 49.1% lower than their Q3 2019 total of £35.3bn and the lowest amount paid in a third quarter since 2010’s £16.9bn, reports Investment Week.
  • Turning to performance on the JSE South Africa’s main stock index advanced for a fourth day, with gold producers and banks among the leading gainers. Gold advanced to a one-week high Wednesday as the dollar weakened amid optimism that US lawmakers may clinch a pre-election spending deal to bolster the economy, says Bloomberg.

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