UK Court rules Zambians can seek compensation from KCM for pollution

By Staff Reporter

 

THE Supreme Court in UK has ruled that the case of the Zambian communities consistently polluted by Konkola Copper Mines, a

subsidiary of British miner, Vedanta Resources Plc will be tried in the UK.

The ruling sets a strong legal precedent which will allow people with claims against subsidiaries of British multinationals to sue the parent company in the UK.

In a judgment delivered by Chief Justice Lady Hale, and four further judges reaffirmed the rulings of the Court of Technology and Construction in 2016 and the Court of Appeal in 2017.

The Chief Justice refused Vedanta’s pleas, in appealing the former judgments, saying contrary to the claims of Vedanta’s lawyers, the court established that the claimants do have a bona fide claim against Vedanta.

She said the company owed a duty of care to the claimants, especially in view of the existence of companywide policies on environment, health and safety and that the size and complexity of the case, and the lack of funding for claimants at; ‘at the poorer end of the poverty scale in one of the poorest countries of the world’ means that do not have substantive access to justice in Zambia.

This was in a case in which 1,826 people who are represented by UK law firm Leigh Day, who are from farming and fishing

communities downstream of KCM’s mines and plants are claiming damages alleging that they suffered continual pollution since UK firm Vedanta Resources bought KCM in 2004, including a major incident in 2006 which turned the River Kafue bright blue with copper sulphate and

acid, and poisoned water sources for 40,000 people.

In 2007, 2,001 claimants took KCM to court in Zambia and the court found KCM guilty but denied the communities compensation after a nine-year legal battle.

As a result, the victims took their case to UK lawyers.

James Nyasulu from Chingola, a long-term campaigner in the case and lead claimant in the Zambian cases stated that: “The Supreme Court judgment will finally enable justice for the thousands of victims

of pollution by KCM’s mining activities, who have suffered immensely since 2006 to date, in the Chingola district of Zambia. Their livelihoods, land and health have been irreparably damaged by pollution which has rendered the River Kafue completely polluted and unable to support aquatic life. Some have already died as a result.

We are very grateful to the British Supreme Court for allowing the case to be tried in the UK where we trust that justice will finally be done. As our 13 years of legal battles have shown, we have been unable to get justice in Zambia.”

And Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta said:

“As the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals recognise, sustainable development and access to justice go hand in hand. The judges ruling today recognises and enforces that principle. Criminal companies like Vedanta can no longer so easily whitewash their reputation and assume a ‘cloak of respectability’ by virtue of a London listing. This is an historic

day for victims of British multinational’s abuses worldwide.”