British Court Rules Trial of KCM Pollution Case Can Go Ahead In UK
The UK Supreme Court has ruled that Zambian communities that have been polluted and harmed by Verdanta Resources KCM mine will be permitted to hold their case in the United Kingdom.
This ruling sets a strong precedent which will allow people with claims against British multinationals to sue them in the parent company’s registered location rather than locally.
The judgement was made by Chief Justice Lady Hale and four other judges. She refused Vedanta’s pleas and denied their lawyers’ argument that the claimants did not have a bona fide claim against Verdanta.
“…the company does owe a duty of care to the claimants, especially in view of the existence of companywide policies on environment and health and safety…that the size and complexity of the case, and the lack of funding for claimants at ‘at the poorer end of the poverty scale in one of the poorest countries of the world’ means that do not have substantive access to justice in Zambia,” Lady Hale said.
There were a total of 1826 claimants represented by the UK law firm Leigh Day. They are from fishing and farming communities who live downstream from KCMS mine and plant. They claim to have suffered continual pollution since 2004, including a major incident in 2006 which turned the Kafue River bright blue due to copper sulphate and acid contamination – this poisoned the water sources of 40,000 people.
Chingola resident James Nyasulu, a long term campaigner in the case, and lead claimant in the Zambian cases, said the Supreme Court judgment would finally enable justice for the thousands of victims of pollution by KCM’s mining activities, “who have suffered immensely since 2006 to date, in the Chingola district of Zambia”.
Foil Verdanata’s Samarendra Das made this comment upon the judgement:
“As the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals recognise, sustainable development and access to justice go hand in hand. The judges ruling today recognises and enforces that principle. Criminal companies like Vedanta can no longer so easily whitewash their reputation and assume a ‘cloak of respectability’ by virtue of a London listing. This is an historic day for victims of British multinational’s abuses worldwide,” said Das