Farmer Langsu Mumbelunga in his polluted field near the Mushishima stream, Zambia. Photograph: John Vidal for the Observer

Historic victory for opens the door for global claimants to seek justice against British multinationals in the UK.

The Supreme Court today announced its verdict in the landmark case of the Zambian communities consistently polluted by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a subsidiary of British miner Vedanta Resources Plc, allowing them to have their case against the parent company and its subsidiary 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.

The judgment by Chief Justice Lady Hale, and four further judges, re-affirms the rulings of the Court of Technology and Construction in 2016 and the Court of Appeal in 2017. Lady Hale refused Vedanta’s pleas in appealing the former judgments stating that, contrary to the claims of Vedanta’s lawyers:

  • the claimants do have a bona fide claim against Vedanta
  • the company does owe a duty of care to the claimants, especially in view of the existence of company wide policies on environment and health and safety.
  • 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.

The 1,826 claimants, represented by UK law firm Leigh Day, are from farming and fishing communities downstream of KCM’s mines and plants. They claim to have 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(2). 2,001 claimants took KCM to court in Zambia in 2007. The courts 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, issued this statement:

“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 thirteen years of legal battles have shown, we have been unable to get justice in Zambia.”

Now that the Supreme Court has confirmed their permission to have the case tried in the UK the case itself can begin.

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.”

In a further development Vedanta Resources de-listed from the London Stock Exchange on 1st October 2018, amid global protests following the killing of 13 people, shot by police during protests against the company’s copper smelter in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, India. Commentators (including Foil Vedanta in their comprehensive report on the company’s global operations entitled ‘Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory failure, environment and human rights’)1 claimed the company were fleeing regulation in the UK. However, Vedanta remains liable in the UK for damages arising from the Zambian case.

It is now possible that claimants from some of the many of the Indian communities affected by pollution and human rights abuses by Vedanta may also seek to get justice in the UK.

In April 2016 a High Court ruling granted the claimants jurisdiction to have their case against KCM and Vedanta heard in the UK, citing KCM’s uncertain and opaque finances as one reason they may not be able to get justice in Zambia. The Court of Appeal upheld this verdict in July 2017.2 (3)

For the Full judgement Click here

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25 COMMENTS

  1. Yes…no wonder these crooks wanted this case heard in Zambian courts. I hope they are made to cough up like BP did after that oil spillage!!

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    • And to think KCM was sold for next to nothing. Our own government has failed these people.

      The good news is that UK courts will deal with these crooks sternly. And I hope it sends a message to those investing in Africa to respect the natives.

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    • It is a good thing this case will finally be heard in the UK than Zambia. I presume KCM has more and valuable assets hidden away in London than Lusaka. If they fail to pay up when the judgement goes against them, it will be easier to confiscate those assets, sale them and compensate the victims of their pollution. This the reason why KCM was fighting mad to have this case adjudicated in London/UK. Now, it’s game on and they know it.

      Just watch how quickly KCM/Vedanta will now be asking and willing to settle this case before it goes to trial. Corporations do this in order to conceal the amount of damages assed which could be a reference point for other cases against them later.

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    • @ Yambayamba

      Contrary to your statement “…This the reason why KCM was fighting mad to have this case adjudicated in London/UK. …” KCM was “fighting mad” to have case determined in Zambia.

      As a matter of fact, when learned ex AG took the villagers case to UK, your “anointed” (LOL), “learned” (LOL), “visionary” (LOL) and Endemically Corrupt Leader of Plunderers Federation accused former AG of lacking “Patriotism”.

      Now, you of all people, are now praising UK Judiciary?

      You, as Zambian Citizen, are not ashamed that your fellow Citizens need to have theirs Constitutional Fundamental Rights protected by the Judiciary of the UK?

      You are just another big mouth bigot!!!

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    • Wow @Just Asking, I don’t get it! Looks like somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, right? What have I said in my post that upsets you so much? Is it that I forgot to include “not” in my post…..as in “fighting mad NOT to have…”?

      Now I am a sympathizer of some person you can’t even name, and a ‘bigot’ (assuming you even know what the word means, because you sure know how to misuse words.) Chill bro, don’t assume too much about people you don’t even know. If you have a point to make it serves you better to be calm about it….free advise!

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  2. I also want to remind the Judiciary that Gladys Nyriongo former Minister of Lands hasnt served her jail sentence ever since she was convicted.

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  3. ames Nyasulu from Chingola, a long term campaigner in the case, and lead claimant in the Zambian cases, issued this statement:

    “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 thirteen years of legal battles have shown, we have been unable to get justice in Zambia.”

    Now…

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    • James Nyasulu from Chingola, a long term campaigner in the case, and lead claimant in the Zambian cases, issued this statement:
      “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 thirteen years of legal battles have shown, we have been unable to get justice in Zambia.”

      Now that…

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  4. Finally justice is served. I hope the make Vendata and that demon head of theirs pay through his ears, nostrils and mouth.

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  5. This morally coined phrase “… the poorer end of the poverty scale in one of the poorest countries of the world” did definitely melt the heart of the judge.

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  6. Justice is not common in Zambia, justice has been replaced with a brown envelope….

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  7. flag Corruption scandals: Social Security Cash Luxury Presidential Jet Ambulances Fire Trucks Mukula Trees Ndola-Lusaka Rd Malawi Maizegate Fuelgate Swaziland landgate Zesco Loans

    I can’t believe it had to take an International court in a foreign white man’s country to try and bring justice to these poor peasants while the Zambian government is refusing to side with it’s own people… unbelievable! At the “humble one” my a$s! If ever there was proof that this government has no care of poor people at heart, this is it. Just that statement about this judge talking about “…… the poorer end of the poverty scale in one of the poorest countries of the world…” really breaks my heart.

    If we had genuine politicians they would have made this company to shut down operations until they compensated the victims.

    It’s not over though as this powerful company with billions of dollars will trying everything in their power to avoid liability. They should…

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    • flag Corruption scandals: Social Security Cash Luxury Presidential Jet Ambulances Fire Trucks Mukula Trees Ndola-Lusaka Rd Malawi Maizegate Fuelgate Swaziland landgate Zesco Loans

      …They should also try to concurrently sue them in the US and/or EU and they would be awarded billions in compensation.

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  8. Cracking good case. It’s success has opened up doors for others too. Well done James Nyasulu for your determination even through your dark hours. I hope the families of those deceased are joining in to ensure justice is done and to get some closure on thief pain.

    It makes sense for the case to be heard in UK as it’ll make it easier to deal with Vedanta monsters. I don’t agree that Zambia is a very poor country to the extent that our judiciary is unable to dispense justice. It’s corruption in Zambia that’s a problem. The system is there in place, but they have no teeth against multinationals especially when it comes to make them pay compensation, it would have been an uphill battle across continents.

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  9. Hopefully this opens more doors for more cases like this, because for too long Africa has been a honey-pot and dumping ground for rich foreigners and our corrupt and incompetent leaders have allowed this. Our does the richest continent in the world have the most poor people? Africans need to wake the f up and wisen up or they’ll have nothing left for their future generations.

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  10. At long last! Where is Peter Sinkamba? I think he was involved with the NGO Citizen for Better Environment that did the initial assessments?

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  11. BUT WHY DIDI IT TAKE A BRITISH COURT TO SETTLE THIS CASE?
    ALL POLITICIANS SHOULD ANSWER THIS QUESTION.
    ALL MEANS ALL INCLUDING THE SO-CALLED OPPOSITION HYNAES WHO MAY BE WORSE THAN CURRENT AND PREVIOUS RULERS.
    WE KNOW UPND TO AN AGENT OF ANGLO AMERICAN !!!

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  12. BUT WHY DID IT TAKE A BRITISH COURT TO SETTLE THIS CASE?
    ALL POLITICIANS SHOULD ANSWER THIS QUESTION.
    ALL MEANS ALL INCLUDING THE SO-CALLED OPPOSITION HYNAES WHO MAY BE WORSE THAN CURRENT AND PREVIOUS RULERS.
    WE KNOW UPND TO BE AGENTS OF ANGLO AMERICAN !!!

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  13. Thank God, thank you Jesus, thank you Judges, thank you amazing Activists! I tried to hold a protest in Lusaka two years ago – no one turned up and I was lovingly dragged away not by the police but by my husband who feared for my safety… I can not begin to tell you how happy I am! They will not poison and kill Zambians without facing Justice!

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  14. This is very embarrassing to our lopsided judiciary that has failed to tame Vedanta and several other bogus foreign entities masquerading as investors. KCM frequently disposes the toxic wastes from the copper smelter into the Kafue via Mushishima river. Just hope that justice will be promtly concluded because some of the victims are now deceased. Bravo UK courts.

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  15. No justice in Zambia, shame we have to go outside to protect us from these people. I don’t even think these people will receive any compensation because of PF corruption

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