Vedanta Resources Plc a UK-listed mining company announced on 13 October it had lost its appeal against an earlier judgement ruling that English courts could hear and adjudicate claims by Zambian residents in relation to pollution caused by its subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (“KCM”) in the Kafue river basin. Vedanta and KCM are now examining the Court’s decision and will seek permission to appeal again (1).
One World News reports the background to the case (2). The affected communities have fought an 11-year legal battle against Vedanta for continuous pollution of their water sources since it took over KCM in 2004. Communities first took KCM to court in Zambia in 2006 when the River Kafue, on which they depend for drinking, bathing, cooking and irrigation, was severely polluted by the company. They were awarded a landmark $2 million fine in 2011 in the Zambian High Court, but KCM appealed, and in 2015 the Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdict but removed all compensation. As a result the victims took their case to lawyers in London. In his 2016 High Court verdict ruling against Vedanta, Justice Coulson stated that KCM and parent company Vedanta had attempted to pervert the course of justice in Zambia; he further claimed KCM might even declare insolvency in Zambia to avoid paying victims, noting the company’s financial secrecy and historic dishonesty.
Recent news coverage has detailed ongoing pollution, sickness and poverty suffered by the affected communities. Headmen of the affected communities recently issued these demands, which were relayed to the Vedanta board at its August AGM in London by a dissident shareholder:
• Stop polluting the rivers immediately. Close down the plant until pollution control measures are replaced and upgraded.
• Provide clean water to the villages immediately, by tankers or pipes.
• De-silt the Mushishima stream and Kafue River and remove contaminated waste.
• Remediate the entire polluted area to make it safe to live, farm and fish there again.
• Compensate the affected people for loss of health and livelihood. All medical costs should be paid by KCM/Vedanta in future.