Vedanta Resources lawsuit (re water contamination, Zambia)

Zambia MineIn September 2015, a group of 1826 Zambian villagers filed a lawsuit against Vedanta Resources in UK court over water pollution caused by its subsidiary's copper mining operations. They claim that the water pollution from the Nchanga Copper Mine damaged their lands and livelihoods.

On 27 May 2016, an English High Court judge ruled that the lawsuit against Vedanta Resources could proceed.  In July, the companies appealed and challenged the English courts' jurisdiction. On 13 October 2017, the Court of Appeal dismissed the companies' appeal and allowed the villagers to pursue their claim in the UK.

In March 2018, the companies were granteed permission to appeal and the Supreme Court's hearing that will determine jurisdiction took place on 15 and 16 January 2019. A decison is expected in April 2019.

 

 

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Article
16 January 2019

Vedanta tells top English court KCM pollution case should be heard in Zambia

Author: Lusakatimes.com (Zambia)

Lawyers for Vedanta Resources told England’s Supreme Court on Tuesday that [the] case…should be heard in Zambia not London.

India-listed Vedanta, which delisted from London last year but maintains a legal base in Britain, is appealing a lower court ruling that a case in which villagers alleged their land was polluted by a Vedanta unit could be heard in England…

Vedanta’s legal team argued that Zambia was the “natural forum” for the case and said the parent company did not control operations in Zambia, which were governed by Zambian law…

London law firm Leigh Day has argued that the English courts were the only route for the villagers to achieve justice. 

Vedanta’s barrister Charles Gibson QC…said that Vedanta only agreed to provide KCM advisory services as an independent contractor and that its management agreement showed Vedanta did not have capacity to control KCM…

Vedanta’s case will also likely be watched by miner BHP, which has said it will fight an English suit by Brazilians seeking damages over an environmental disaster caused when the Fundao dam that stored mining waste burst in 2015.

Outside the court, action group Foil Vedanta was among those protesting against what they allege is pollution by Vedanta 

The case continues and A verdict is expected in April.

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Article
14 January 2019

UK multinationals must respect human rights globally, UK Supreme Court is told

Author: International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) & Corporate Responsibility (CORE) Coalition

…The Court will consider evidence from human rights NGO the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and corporate accountability group CORE, that under existing law and international standards, Vedanta owes a legal duty of care to the Zambian villagers. Acceptance of this principle would make the merits of the case arguable before UK Courts and allow for their jurisdiction to hear the case in future proceedings…

The CORE and the ICJ submission to the Court argues that the Court of Appeal’s conclusion is supported by international standards on companies’ human rights and environmental responsibilities; UK government publications aimed at implementing those standards, including its Business & Human Rights Action Plan; and comparative law jurisprudence.

Vedanta has stated that its "sustainable development agenda" has been developed in line with the international standards to which the submission refers. These standards are therefore relevant to the factual question of whether Vedanta controlled and/or had assumed responsibility for the activities of its Zambian subsidiary, Konkola.

The case is a pivotal test for the development in the UK, and across common law and possibly other jurisdictions of parent company liability for human rights and environmental harm. Victims of corporate human rights abuses face multiple barriers in holding companies to account and securing access to justice. A clear statement from the UK Supreme Court affirming the duty of care principle would assist communities who have been harmed by corporate activities, and would provide an important affirmation of the scope of parent companies’ obligations.

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Item
14 January 2019

Statement in Intervention in Vedanta Resources Plc and Another v Lungowe and others

Author: Corporate Responsibility (CORE) Coalition & International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

The submission argues that the Court of Appeal's conclusion that Vedanta arguably owed the Claimants a duty of care is supported by:

(i) international standards regarding the responsibilities of business enterprises in relation to human rights and environmental protection;

(ii) material published by the UK government with the aim of implementing those international standards; and

(iii) comparative law jurisprudence.  

Vedanta has stated that its "sustainable development agenda" has been developed in line with the international standards to which the submission refers.

These standards are therefore relevant to the factual question of whether Vedanta controlled and/or had assumed responsibility for the activities of its Zambian subsidiary, Konkola

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Article
14 January 2019

UK Supreme Court Hears Landmark Case on Corporate Rights Violations

Author: Rights and Accountability in Developments (RAID)

Companies have repeatedly used [the presumption that corporate entities within a group are distinct]…to avoid responsibility for the harm their business operations cause.

In the case of Vedanta Resources Plc and Another v Lungowe and others, the company denies that it exercised control over its Zambian subsidiary, KCM, or that it owes any duty of care to the Zambian victims whose livelihoods and health have been so badly affected by its mining operations.

The Zambian claimants argue that Vedanta, the parent company, did exercise control over KCM, and that in doing so owed them a duty of care.

The legal question of whether the parent company can be held accountable under civil law for human rights violations and environmental harm caused by its subsidiary is what the Supreme Court judges need to decide…

The UK, a signatory to key international human rights treaties, has a responsibility to advance access to justice for victims [which] frequently face significant obstacles to seeking justice in their home countries...

The UK Supreme Court decision in the Vedanta case will test whether Britain will keep up with, or even be at the forefront, of this trend, or whether it will prevent overseas human rights victims of British companies from seeking justice in the UK courts.

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Article
9 January 2019

Landmark jurisdiction case to be heard in Supreme Court: UK mining company may be liable for pollution by Zambian subsidiary

Author: FoilVedanta

On 15th and 16th January 2019 the Supreme Court will hear Vedanta's second appeal against the High Court's jurisdiction ruling in the case of Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe vs Vedanta Resources and Konkola Copper Mines

The case could represent a precedent in UK law, as, if a duty of care is found to be owed by Vedanta towards the claimants, this would be the first reported case in which a parent company would have been held to owe a duty of care to a person affected by the operations of a subsidiary who is not an employee of the subsidiary…

In April 2016 a High Court ruling granted the claimants jurisdiction to have their case against KCM and Vedanta heard in the UK, citing KCM’s uncertain and opaque finances as one reason they may not be able to get justice in Zambia. The Court of Appeal upheld this verdict in July 2017…

A range of groups will join a protest outside the Supreme Court which has been called under the title 'Make Pollution Political'…Protesters…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.

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Article
21 December 2018

CORE and ICJ to intervene in UK Supreme Court case

Author: CORE Coalition & International Commission of Jurists

CORE and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) have been granted permission to intervene in an appeal before the United Kingdom Supreme Court (Vedanta Resources PLC and another v. Lungowe and others). The two organisations will provide evidence on comparative law and international standards regarding the responsibilities of companies in relation to human rights and environmental protection, in particular the recognition of a duty of care of parent companies in relation to the communities living in the surrounding of companies operations...

Our submission is that the Court of Appeal’s conclusion that Vedanta arguably owed a duty of care to the claimants is supported by: international standards regarding the responsibilities of companies in relation to human rights and environmental protection; material published by the UK government with the aim of implementing those international standards; and comparative law jurisprudence.

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Article
26 October 2017

Legal Briefing Lungowe & Others v Vedanta Resources Plc & Konkola Copper Mines [2017]

Author: Oliver Holland, Leigh Day

...The Claimants are 1,826 Zambian citizens who commenced proceedings against Vedanta, a UK domiciled multinational mining company, and its Zambian subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (“KCM”), a copper mining company operating one of the largest copper mines in the world.

The Claimants allege that as a result of the Defendants’ toxic effluent discharge from their Nchanga Copper Mine they have suffered loss of income through damage to the land and waterways on which they rely. They further contend that many are suffering from personal injuries as a result of having to consume and use polluted water. They are seeking damages, remediation and cessation to the alleged continual pollution that they say is gravely impacting their lives.

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Article
13 October 2017

Court of Appeal upholds ruling that claims by Zambian villagers against mining giant can be heard in UK court

Author: Leigh Day

The Court of Appeal has today upheld a High Court ruling allowing the legal case on behalf of 1,826 Zambian villagers against UK mining giant Vedanta Resources Plc and its Zambian subsidiary, Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) to continue to be heard in the UK Courts.

The Zambian villagers allege that their land and livelihood has been destroyed by the pollution from the Nchanga Copper Mine owned by Vedanta Resources PLC through their subsidiary KCM, going into the Mushishima river.

In 2015 the villagers took their legal action against Vedanta and KCM to the High Court and in Mr Justice Coulson’s judgment, handed down on 27 May 2016, he agreed that the Claimants had a legal right to bring their claim against the UK company, Vedanta Resources Plc, through the courts in the UK...

Vedanta and KCM took the High Court judgment to the Court of Appeal in July 2017...

In today’s judgment from the Court of Appeal Lord Justice Simon uphold[s] the original High Court judgment and dismiss[es] the appeals...

The judgment also sought to clarify the duty of care a parent company owes when operating via a subsidiary...

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Article
13 October 2017

Judgment Court of Appeal Lungowe & Others v Vedanta Resources Plc & Konkola Copper Mines

...By an order dated 16 June 2016, following a judgment dated 27 May, Coulson J (‘the Judge’) dismissed the jurisdictional challenges brought by Vedanta and KCM, who appeal against that order.

This judgment is divided into the following parts:

A. The hearings and an outline of the claimants’ claim

B. Vedanta’s applications

C. KCM’s applications

D. Conclusion...

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Article
13 October 2017

KCM [Konkola Copper Mines] Announcement

Author: Vedanta Resources

Vedanta Resources Plc ("Vedanta") and Konkola Copper Mines ("KCM") announced that they have challenged the jurisdiction of the English courts to hear and adjudicate the claims by Zambian residents in relation to KCM's operations in Zambia. On 27 May 2016, the English High Court of Justice, Queen's Bench Division, Technology and Construction Court ruled that the English courts have jurisdiction to hear and adjudicate the claims. Vedanta and KCM appealed this ruling.

The English Court of Appeal today released a judgment, dismissing this appeal and ruling that the English courts have jurisdiction to hear and adjudicate the claims.

This judgment relates solely to the jurisdiction of the English courts to hear these claims.  It is not a ruling or a determination on the merits of the claims. 

Vedanta and KCM are examining the Court's judgment and will seek permission to appeal the Court's decision.

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