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20 Apr 2019

Allen & Overy

Vedanta: Supreme Court rules that Zambians can seek legal redress in the UK against parent company

The UK Supreme Court has decided that a claim for negligence and breach of statutory duty against a Zambian mining company and its English parent can be heard by the English courts. The much anticipated decision has important ramifications for British multinationals whose subsidiaries and suppliers operate abroad, particularly in those regions where there is a higher risk of adverse environmental and human rights impacts and claimants face practical barriers to accessing effective judicial remedies. It also is an important decision for potential claimants motivated to seek access to judicial remedies against multinational corporations in their home jurisdictions. Here we discuss the most salient points from the decision and what it means for the environmental and human rights policies and practices of UK-domiciled multinational companies, and the litigation strategies of potential claimants.


The claimants in this case are 1,826 villagers from the Chingola District of Zambia, home to a copper mine operated by Zambian company Konkola Copper Mines plc (KCM). In 2015, these villagers lodged a claim in the English courts against KCM and its English parent company, Vedanta Resources PLC (Vedanta), alleging that their health and farming activities had been damaged by toxic water pollution caused by the mine. KCM and Vedanta challenged the jurisdiction of the English courts to hear this claim...