Zambian government ‘divorces’ Vedanta

Miners unions demonstrate in Chingola in support of the government’s decision

28th June 2019. On the 20th of May, following weeks of protests and riots which had briefly brought tanks into Chingola, Zambia’s President – Edgar Lungu – announced his government’s intention to liquidate Konkola Copper Mines in order to ‘divorce’ Vedanta Resources as the majority shareholder and seek a new investor.

Miners and residents of Chingola in the Zambian Copperbelt had taken to the streets in anger about unpaid wages and conditions at KCM, despite being denied a police permit applied for by Nchanga Member of Parliament Chali Chilombo to stage a peaceful protest. This was the culmination of negative public opinion which had been building up against KCM for many years, and especially since mass layoffs of employees in 2013 and 2015 and outsourcing of labour.

In his announcement president Lungu accused KCM of breaching its operating licence and said the government’s decision to punish Vedanta’s subsidiary for breaches of environmental and financial regulations was a signal to other firms to follow the country’s laws.

Milingo Lungu (front right) takes over KCM

On 21st May provisional liquidator Milingo Lungu of law firm Lungu, Simwanza & Company was appointed by ZCCM-IH (Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines – Investment Holdings, the government’s mining investment arm which owns 20.6% of KCM), at Lusaka High Court with power to take over the running of the mine and deal with all company matters.

Later that day various mine workers’ unions including the Mineworkers Union of Zambia, alongside other miners, ex-miners and residents of Chingola and Chililabombwe held a historic demonstration in the streets of Chingola in solidarity with the government’s decision.

In a press statement on 21st May Minister of Mines Richard Musukwa cited the layoff of employees, the indebtedness of KCM, vast unpaid bills to contractors and suppliers, and failure to invest in and develop its mining assets as reasons for KCM’s liquidation, saying the extreme action was taken ‘to make KCM viable’.

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Landmark jurisdiction case won by Zambian farmers at Supreme Court

The Supreme Court today announced its verdict in the landmark case of the Zambian communities consistently polluted by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a subsidiary of British miner Vedanta Resources Plc, allowing them to have their case against the parent company and its subsidiary tried in the UK. The ruling sets a strong legal precedent which will allow people with claims against subsidiaries of British multinationals to sue the parent company in the UK.

The judgment by Chief Justice Lady Hale, and four further judges, re-affirms the rulings of the Court of Technology and Construction in 2016 and the Court of Appeal in 2017. Lady Hale refused Vedanta’s pleas in appealing the former judgments stating that, contrary to the claims of Vedanta’s lawyers:

  • the claimants do have a bona fide claim against Vedanta
  • the company does owe a duty of care to the claimants, especially in view of the existence of company wide 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.

See coverage at:

BBC – Court rules Zambians can seek compensation for pollution

Financial Times – UK Supreme Court rules Zambians can sue miner Vedanta

The Hindu – Zambian villagers get court’s nod to sue Vedanta

The Guardian – Zambians can pursue mining pollution claim in English courts

The Lusaka Times – Landmark Jurisdiction case won by Zambian farmers at Supreme court

Adivasi Resurgence – Zambian villagers win the right to sue Vedanta for pollution in UK court

Afrik 21 – Vedanta to be sued in London for pollution by Zambian subsidiary

Continue reading Landmark jurisdiction case won by Zambian farmers at Supreme Court

Can Zambian claimants get justice in the UK Supreme Court?

Report on the Supreme Court appeal hearing in the case Lungowe vs Vedanta, 15 – 16 January 2019.

This report follows our previous detailed write up of the Court of Appeal hearing, entitled ‘Police this gateway‘.

Court room 1 of the British Supreme Court was packed with journalists, solidarity activists, law students and other observers over the two day hearing, sitting in rows behind the legal benches. Each law firm was represented by two or three QCs as well as five or so advising lawyers sitting in the second row. In front of them five judges were seated behind a semi circle bench facing the rest of court. The ornate and grand stone building of the Supreme Court is located directly opposite the Houses of Parliament across Parliament Square. The court room itself is high ceilinged, with large stained glass windows, paintings of historic judges and extremely ornate carved stone and woodwork throughout the walls, ceilings and benches.

Outside the court entrance a vigil organised by Foil Vedanta continued throughout the two day hearing. Protesters held large green banner stating ‘Make Pollution Political: Justice for Zambia’ and a variety of placards with images of the pollution and some of the claimants in the affected villages.

Cherie Blair, wife of former British PM Tony Blair attended the first day of hearing, telling protesters outside she was there to support the case for UK jurisdiction.

Continue reading Can Zambian claimants get justice in the UK Supreme Court?

Supreme Court hears landmark jurisdiction case against Vedanta

Foil Vedanta vigil outside the Supreme Court

The latest hearing in the case of the Zambian communities consistently polluted by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a subsidiary of British miner Vedanta, was heard at the British Supreme Court on 15th and 16th January 2019. A vigil organised by solidarity organisation Foil Vedanta took place outside the court throughout the event in solidarity with the victims of ongoing pollution who have been fighting legal battles for justice in Zambia, and now the UK, for twelve years.

See press coverage in The Lusaka Times, The Guardian, New York Times, The Hindu, Mining MX, Zambia reports, CNBC, Morning Star, Left Foot Forward, Environews Nigeria and Business Day.

A short video from the court can be found here.

The court heard 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. Vedanta attempted to overturn the High Court and Court of Appeal rulings which held that the case of 1,826 polluted farmers against the company and its subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines could be heard in the UK instead of Zambia. 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.12 This ruling could have major implications for British multinational corporations’ liability, a move which would be welcomed by British Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who expressed solidarity with the claimants, stating:

“When British corporations like Vedanta cause toxic pollution overseas, it’s absolutely right that they pay for the damage. I stand in solidarity with all those whose drinking water has been poisoned and livelihoods damaged by Vedanta’s irresponsible pursuit of profit, and all those campaigning for justice.”

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Make Pollution Political -1826 Zambian claimants Demand Justice in Supreme Court, London

On 15th and 16th the Zambian communities consistently polluted by the subsidiary of British mining company Vedanta Resources will have their case heard at the Supreme Court in London, and we need your help to rally in solidarity outside and inside the court room, to send a clear message that we will not stand for this British company’s complete disregard for human rights and environment.

  Join us

Please join us to protest outside the court from 9.30am – 10.15am on Tues 15th and Weds 16th January and demand justice for the claimants!

All are welcome to attend the case for any period of time on either day. Your solidarity will be strongly felt!

 
Hearings are 10.30 AM- 4 PM, Tuesday and Wednesday, 15-16 January 2018.
Supreme Court
Little George Street
Westminster
London SW1P 3BD

Vedanta will attempt to overturn the High Court and Court of Appeal rulings which held that the case of 1,826 polluted farmers against the company and its subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines could be heard in the UK instead of
Zambia. 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. Therefore this is an important
day for all communities affected by the crimes of UK multinationals who
have hitherto been denied justice in British courts.

Continue reading Make Pollution Political -1826 Zambian claimants Demand Justice in Supreme Court, London

Vedanta boss avoids last AGM as protests rage

1st October 2018. Loud protests took place at the company’s last London AGM today. Company founder and Chairman Anil Agarwal was not present, creating uproar among protesters and shareholders. Vedanta Resources officially de-listed from the London Stock Exchange at 8am this morning. Inside the meeting dissident shareholders asked questions about the police shooting of thirteen protesters against Vedanta’s copper smelter in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu in May. Another shareholder asked how much Vedanta spent on litigation or bribes, given the number of court cases they are tied up in at their various operations. Meanwhile a large contingent of Tamil people played traditional Parai drums and demanded ‘justice for Tuticorin’ outside the AGM.

See a video of the protest here…and here

See here for a full report on the AGM proceedings by London Mining Network: Vedanta AGM – a complete farce.

Coverage by Reuters here and on Moneycontrol here,and in The Hindu here,and Business Standard here, and on MSN here and Lusaka Times here.

Please download the report Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory failure, environment and human rights here: Vedanta’s Billions ebook high res, or a lower resolution version here: Vedanta’s Billions ebook low res

Hours before the meeting a protest was held at Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) headquarters in Canary Wharf, demanding that British regulatory authorities do not let Vedanta flee the London Stock Exchange without being held to account. Representatives for FCA Directors were handed copies of a damning report Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory failure, environment and human rights published by Foil Vedanta and a coalition of organisations days before. The report was described by Hywel Williams MP as ‘deeply concerning and disturbing’ and gives a comprehensive account of legal judgments against Vedanta across its global operations, blaming the City of London and FCA for failing to regulate or penalise the company, which is the latest in a long list of London miners linked to ‘corporate massacres’.

Reggae artist and activist Maiko Zulu in Lusaka

On Thursday 27th September popular Zambian reggae artist and public figure – Maiko Zulu – was arrested outside the British High Commission in Lusaka, Zambia, holding a banner stating ‘Hold Anil Agarwal to account for Zambian crimes before de-listing’. Zulu gave this statement to the media, referring to the Vedanta subsidiary KCM’s pollution of the River Kafue, for which the landmark case of 1,826 farmers against Vedanta will be heard in London Supreme Court in January, as well as the Tuticorin ‘massacre’:

Vedanta is being de-listed from the London Stock Exchange following serious crimes against indigenous people of India and the pollution of our own Kafue River which is a source of livelihood for thousands of peasants. The inequality that multinationals are creating can not be left unchecked and we will continue standing up and facing arrests for the good of our people. Our fellow protesters were shot at by police in India.”

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The safety record at KCM is upside-down

This article by Buntungwa Ward Councillor, Soko Mumba, details attempts by Vedanta’s Zambian subsidiary KCM to cover up circumstances surrounding the death of a worker earlier this year. It is not clear if Mr Mwape’s tragic death is counted as one of the nine fatalities recorded in Vedanta’s 2018 Annual Report, which make a mockery of their ‘zero harm’ policy. Adding insult to injury, Vedanta CEO Kuldip Kaura’s statement in the report:

“Our training programmes have focused on getting our employees make better risk decisions so that they can start to identify those behaviours that result in injuries and fatalities.”

..appears to put the blame for fatal accidents on the employees themselves, rather than taking responsibility for the poor health and safety record which is well documented in Foil Vedanta’s recent report, Vedanta’s Billions.

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Every mining undertaking has its risks but such risks can be avoided if a company operates within the confines of the Mining and Safety Regulations, which are there to promote both human life and mining business. You can not talk of a successful business without safety and you can’t of course talk about successful safety without human life.

It takes serious investment to implement the mining and Safety Regulations if a mining company is to have Zero fatalities as Vedanta claims. If there is no serious investment in both human and business capital, the chances of having fatalities are very high.

This is the case at Vedanta’s Zambian subsidiary KCM, which has been operating without capital injection into the business and human capital. This has resulted in the company cutting down costs to maximise profits by bypassing certain safety procedures in the quest to meet the growing demand for copper.

Continue reading The safety record at KCM is upside-down