Tag Archives: justice

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

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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.

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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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London protests condemn Thoothukudi Vedanta Massacre; Demand action in India and the UK

26th May 2018 An angry protest took place today at the Indian High Commission in London. The people were condemning the police firing which killed at least 13 unarmed protesters at an environmental demonstration against British company Vedanta Resources’ copper smelter in Thoothukudi (Tuticorin), Tamil Nadu on Tuesday. There was a strong call from all groups present today to delist Vedanta from the London Stock Exchange, while Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell also sent a statement demanding that Vedanta is de-listed as a ‘rogue corporation’.

  • Recent updates on the ground situation in Tuticorin and ongoing UK protests are also included at the end of this post.

A large and diverse crowd gathered outside the Indian High Commission

There were many speeches and songs from the people today. They shared new information such as Sterlite’s donations to the Police control room in Thoothukudi and highlighted the parallels and called for solidarity with Gaza, Marikana and Kalinganagar massacres. The London protest was called by Foil Vedanta, Tamil People in UK, Periyar Ambedkar Study Circle, South Asia Solidarity Group, Tamil Solidarity, Parai Voice of Freedom and Veera Tamilar Munnani.

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