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.
The Supreme Court
today announced its verdict in the landmark case ofthe
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
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.
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.