7th June, 2016. On Friday 27th May the Hon Mr Justice Coulson published his judgment on the jurisdiction hearing between 1,826 Zambian villagers and Vedanta and it’s Zambian subsidiary KCM which took place in April in London, finding in the villagers’ favour that their case demanding compensation for personal injury and loss of livelihood due to gross pollution could be heard in the UK. The judgment (which can be downloaded at this link: KCM Coulson Judgment May 2016) is an indictment of KCM’s financial secrecy, historic dishonesty and attempts to pervert the course of justice, detailed in this article. To those of us experienced in legal cases against some of Vedanta’s Indian subsidiaries this does not come as a surprise but fits with the pattern of corruption and deception which Vedanta has become famous for.
This is a great victory in the preliminary stages of this major case against Vedanta and KCM for knowingly causing gross pollution from 2005 (just after they acquired KCM) to the present day. Our previous article details the shocking living conditions of thousands of villagers whose water sources have been chronically polluted causing sickness, poverty and even death. Video testimonies from some of the claimants and victims detail how people have ‘collapsed and died’ as a result of prolonged exposure to high levels of contaminants (as scientific papers attest).
Scientists sample toxic sludge seeping from the Muntimpa tailing dam into the environment in 2011
19th February 2016. In October 2015 Foil Vedanta visited Vedanta’s Zambian subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) for the second time to investigate the legacy of pollution that has destroyed the environment and livelihoods around Chingola since 2004, when Vedanta bought controlling shares in KCM. KCM is Africa’s largest copper mine and the largest mining company in the copper dependent economy of Zambia. Our 2014 report Copper Colonialism: Vedanta KCM and the copper loot of Zambia exposed some of KCM’s major corporate malpractices including large scale tax evasion and mis-declaring profits, labour rights violations, and gross pollution which has continually contaminated the river Kafue causing sickness and loss of livelihood for tens of thousands of Zambians. We accused Vedanta and the UK government, which has given KCM active and tacit support, of neo-colonialism and of treating Zambian lives and environment as cheap.
In 2015 an eight year long legal battle by 2000 contaminated residents finally ended when the Supreme Court of Zambia confirmed the High Court’s opinion that KCM was guilty of ‘gross recklessness’ and damaging villagers’ health. However, the $2 million in damages earlier awarded by the High Court was removed, leaving the residents short of real justice. Subsequently London law firms have filed for damages from Vedanta Resources on behalf of approximately 3000 of the contaminated villagers, and the shocking story of ten years of pollution has reached the Guardian and BBC. However, many thousands remain un-represented and there is no guarantee that the pollution will stop in the event of a settlement. This article gives voice to some of the victims of KCM’s ongoing water pollution whom we met around Chingola, where KCM’s Nchanga open pit and underground mines, concentrators, Tailings Leach Plant, and smelter are located, and details KCM’s sheer disregard for life in Zambia despite several criminal prosecutions for contamination. KCM’s air pollution will be the subject of a separate article.