(Bloomberg) -- Anglo American Plc said it will oppose any court case over allegations that a Zambian mine in which the company held a stake poisoned tens of thousands of people with lead after the claimants were allowed to appeal a previous ruling.

The Johannesburg High Court on April 19 granted the plaintiffs from the Zambian town of Kabwe the right to appeal a December dismissal of their application, the London-listed miner said in a statement on Monday. Anglo “has stated from the outset that this claim is entirely misconceived,” it said.

Last week’s decision “does not undermine” the earlier judgment and simply recognizes that an appeal to another court “is a viable option for the claimants to follow in the South African legal process,” the company said.

Anglo denies responsibility for the lead poisoning related to the Broken Hill mine. The company says it only held a minority interest in the operator of that mine from 1925 until 1974, when it was nationalized. Lead poisoning can cause health problems ranging from learning difficulties to infertility, brain damage and, in some cases, death. 

Read more: Anglo American Avoids Class Action Over Lead Poisoning 

The company’s arguments “indicate a shocking indifference to the tremendous and ongoing harm caused to generations of the Kabwe communities by its operations,” the plaintiffs’ law firms — Mbuyisa Moleele and Leigh Day — said in a joint statement on Monday, describing the new ruling as a “crucial step towards achieving justice.”

The group lawsuit, filed in South Africa because Anglo was headquartered in Johannesburg when it held the Broken Hill stake, has been brought by 12 individuals from Kabwe. The law firms for those plaintiffs have said they could represent more than 140,000 people.

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