Vedanta challenges jurisdiction of villagers’ claims in London High Court
A three-day hearing in the High Court in London will start on Tuesday 12 April on behalf of 1826 Zambian villagers who are taking legal action against UK based mining giant Vedanta Resources Plc and its Zambian subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM). The villagers allege that their water sources and farming land were contaminated by the copper mining operations of both companies. They allege they have suffered continual pollution since 2004 and it is still ongoing today, causing them to fall sick and lose their crops.
The judge, Mr Justice Coulson, will hear arguments on behalf of the defendants, Vedanta, a UK mining company with an asset base of US$37 billion (one of the world’s largest mining companies), and its subsidiary KCM, against the jurisdiction of the English courts to try the claims. Lawyers for the mining companies will argue that the claims should be tried in Zambia because the Claimants are Zambian and the damage occurred in Zambia.
The Claimants, subsistence farmers who are among the poorest inhabitants of Zambia, will argue that the claims should be tried by the English courts because UK-based Vedanta should bear equal legal responsibility, given its control over its mining subsidiary and alleged knowledge of the pollution. The Claimants will also argue that there is a very real risk that they will not achieve justice if their claims are not tried in England, illustrated by the fact that they have received no assistance in Zambia during the 12 years they have been allegedly suffering from the pollution.
The 1,826 villagers, represented by London based law firm Leigh Day, are members of four artisanal farming communities situated in the Copperbelt region of Zambia along the Mushishima and Kafue Rivers. They live close to the city of Chingola and next to the Nchanga Copper Mine which is operated by Vedanta’s subsidiary KCM. Vedanta bought a controlling share in KCM in 2004.