Foil Vedanta: Convict the Mining Firm for Gross Pollution in Zambia

 

Statement by Foil Vedanta 28th June 2017

British Mining Firm to Deny Culpability for Gross Pollution in Zambia

  •  UK miner Vedanta Resources' will try to prevent major pollution case being tried in UK in its appeal hearing on 4th/5th July in London.
  • The hearing will be met with solidarity protests at the Royal Courts of Justice demanding justice in the eleven year case on behalf of the victims.
  • The May 2016 London judgment which allowed the case to be heard in the UK indicted Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines for financial secrecy, historic dishonesty and attempts to pervert the course of justice.

foil vedanta

The latest hearing in the case of the Chingola communities consistently polluted by Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) will be heard at the Court of Appeals in London on 4th or 5th July [1]. A rally organised by Foil Vedanta[2] with Pan African solidarity groups will take place outside the court in solidarity with the victims of ongoing pollution who have been fighting legal battles for justice in Zambia, and now the UK, for eleven years.

The claimants, represented by UK law firm Leigh Day, are from farming and fishing communities downstream of KCM's mines and plants. They have suffered continual pollution since UK firm Vedanta Resources bought KCM in 2004. In 2006 a major pollution spill hospitalised hundreds who drank River Kafue water containing 10 x acceptable levels of copper, 770 x manganese and 100 x cobalt. They filed a law suit in 2007 and 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 UK lawyers.

On 27th May 2016 the Hon Justice Coulson awarded 1,826 Chingola villagers the right to have their case demanding compensation for personal injury and loss of livelihood due to gross pollution heard in the UK. The judgment stated that KCM and parent company Vedanta had attempted to pervert the course of justice in Zambia, and claimed KCM could even declare insolvency in Zambia to avoid paying victims, noting the company's financial secrecy and historic dishonesty as exposed in a previous UK judgment in 2014[3]. Vedanta and KCM's appeal will be heard next week.

A Chingola resident and claimant in the case who did not want to be named said:

"The case has dragged on for far too long. Meanwhile lives have been lost due to the pollution and the surviving families are still suffering. In December the World Bank lent Zambia $ 100 million to deal with mining pollution. This confirms the scale of the problem. The affected people should be compensated immediately."

Recent news coverage has detailed the ongoing pollution, sickness and poverty suffered by the affected communities[4]. Protesters outside and inside the Court will decry this British company's complete disregard for human rights and environment, and echo the community's demands for KCM to:

  • 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.

 

Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta said:

"The environmental racism of copper mining companies, and the impunity they enjoyed during Rhodes' British South African Company era is continuing to haunt Zambia through the colonial legacy issues of KCM/Vedanta. It is time that justice is delivered. The Kafue River must be cleaned up, and the eleven years of suffering of pollution affected communities must stop."

If last year's judgment is upheld at next week's appeal, the case will be a precedent for holding a UK mining company responsible for the actions of its subsidiary.

~

Notes

A further press release will be sent by 5pm on the day of the appeal to report on proceedings and rally.

[1] The appeal in the case of Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe vs Vedanta Resources and Konkola Copper Mines will be heard at the London Court of Appeal, Civil Division, at the Royal Courts of Justice on 4th or 5th July 2017. Please see court listings after 2.30pm the previous day to establish exact date and time.

[2] Foil Vedanta is an independent grassroots solidarity organization focused primarily on the British-Indian mining giant Vedanta Resources PLC. Foil Vedanta targets the company in London where it is registered, as well as linking with people's movements where Vedanta is destroying lives and devastating the land in India, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Liberia and South
Africa. www.foilvedanta.org

[3] Justice Coulson's 2016 judgment exposed the opaque nature of Vedanta subsidiary KCM, revealing that the company has not filed any annual accounts in accordance with the Zambian Companies Act. The court had explored the reasons KCM might want to hide its financial position and Justice Coulson refers to the case of Konkola Copper Mines Plc v U&M Mining Zambia Ltd heard in the London Court of Arbitration in 2014 in which Justice Eder found that KCM was close to bankruptcy and 'may not be good for the money' (in that case $55 million owed to their contractor U&M). The case cited reports by Grant Thornton and the Auditor General of Zambia which sought to reconcile Vedanta boss Anil Agarwal's private claims that KCM made $500 million per year, with KCM's loss making claims in Zambia. The reports found evidence of multiple tax evasion and capital flight devices used by Vedanta-KCM along with asset stripping and failure to invest any CAPEX as claimed. Alongside other evidence including 'ministerial statements about the threat of insolvency, bankruptcy or receivership facing KCM and the existence of at least one debt of $30million which went unpaid' Justice Coulson concluded that:

'I would be wrong to ignore the possibility that, if the litigation was conducted in Zambia, Vedanta/KCM could seek to strike it out, or if they lost at trial, Vedanta might put KCM into liquidation in order to avoid paying out to the claimants. The history of the U&M case demonstrates that these are possibilities which cannot be ignored.'

The judgment is attached to this press release.

[4] Please see interviews with affected people on CCTV Africa in 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3isPdcR6Qe4&feature=youtu.be

Detailed article following visits to the communities in 2015 includes scientific reports and testimonies from the victims: https://web.archive.org/web/20170204213118/http://www.foilvedanta.org/articles/how-kcm-is-killing-the-zambian-copperbelt-part-1-water-pollution/

~~~

 

Contact Foil Vedanta for further information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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