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19 Jan 2021

Leigh Day

Vedanta & Konkola Copper Mines settle UK lawsuit brought by Zambian villagers for alleged pollution from mining activities

"Legal claim by more than 2,500 Zambian villagers in a case against Vedanta Resources Limited", 19 January 2021

In a joint statement issued today, Monday 18 January 2021, the villagers, represented by Leigh Day solicitors, and Vedanta Resources Ltd said:

“Without admission of liability, Vedanta Resources Limited and Konkola Copper Mines Plc confirm that they have agreed, for the benefit of local communities, the settlement of all claims brought against them by Zambian claimants represented by English law firm Leigh Day.”

The claim was brought by more than 2,500 Zambian villagers against Konkola Copper Mines Plc and its parent company, UK-based Vedanta Resources. The claimants included 643 children.

The claim, issued in 2015, centred on pollution from the Nchanga Copper Mine, run by Konkola, with 16,000 employees in Zambia, the country’s biggest private employer. Vedanta, one of the largest mining companies in the world, bought a controlling share in Konkola, in 2004.

The Claimants alleged that the pollution severely impacted the lives of people living in nearby villages Shimulala, Kakosa, Hippo Pool and Hellen where the primary source of income is farming and fishing.

It was claimed that toxic effluent discharge from the mine damaged local land and waterways used for irrigation and the use of polluted water for drinking, washing and bathing caused residents severe health problems.

The villagers were seeking damages, remediation and cessation to the alleged continual pollution that they say is gravely impacting their lives.

In a landmark ruling, Supreme Court judges ruled in April, 2019 that the case could be brought against Vedanta in the English courts because, as the parent company of Konkola, the company arguably owed the villagers a duty of care. Vedanta had published material asserting its responsibility for the establishment of group-wide environmental control and sustainability standards, and therefore it must be held accountable for such statements, ruled the court.

The Supreme Court agreed with arguments advanced by the claimants that there was a real risk they would not be able to achieve justice in the Zambian courts due to lack of funding and legal expertise available.

Our legal briefing of the Supreme Court decision can be found here.