A United Kingdom (UK) Appeals Court ruled that Vedanta, a London-listed company, owed a duty of care to a group of small-scale Zambian farmers and other community members who sued the company for pollution and loss of livelihood. The suit arose from mining activities of a Vedanta subsidiary, Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), on Zambia’s Copperbelt.
The landmark ruling comes after an 11 year-long battle against the mining company. It paves the way for other London-listed companies to be held liable in British courts for the actions of their subsidiaries abroad.
Lord Justices Smith, Jackson and Asplin dismissed an appeal by Vedanta to set aside an earlier ruling of the High Court that the claimants’ case had merit and that it may be tried under the jurisdiction of English courts.
The claimants first sued KCM in the Zambian High Court in 2006. They argued that KCM severely polluted the Kafue River, which they depend on for irrigation, drinking water and other uses. They say they lost their livelihood because of the pollution. The court ruled in their favour and awarded them US$2 million in compensation. KCM appealed. In 2015 the Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdict, but scrapped all compensation.
Angry claimants then approached UK lawyers to pursue the matter under English jurisdiction, as the parent company is located there.
In addition to compensation, the affected communities demanded that the mining company provided clean water to the villages, remove waste and take remedial steps to make the entire polluted area safe to live, farm and fish.
Vedanta has not yet commented on the latest ruling.
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