This is the last article you can read this month
You can read more article this month
You can read more articles this month
Sorry your limit is up for this month
BRITISH mining giant Vedanta is fighting a last-ditch legal battle to stop nearly 2,000 Zambian villagers suing over pollution.
Vedanta Resources Plc is being blamed for turning Zambia’s longest river, the Kafue, bright blue after toxic pollution poured out from a pit run by the company’s subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM).
The pollution is said to have poisoned water sources for 40,000 Zambians, who were unable to obtain compensation through their local courts.
After facing what lawyers described as “overwhelming obstacles” to get justice in Zambia, a group of 1,826 farmers along the Kafue decided to pursue KCM’s parent company Vedanta through courts in Britain, suing for personal injury, damage to property and loss of livelihood caused by a decade of pollution.
Two courts in London found in favour of the farmers, but Vedanta repeatedly appealed against those judgements. The mining giant argues that it cannot be sued in Britain for the actions of its subsidiaries abroad.
The case has now reached a climax at the Supreme Court in London where Vedanta’s legal team is making a last-ditch attempt to avoid paying out millions in compensation.
Vedanta’s barrister Charles Gibson QC told the court today that the farmers’ case was “deeply tiresome” and their “allegations have absolutely no substance.”
Mr Gibson said that Vedanta only agreed to provide KCM advisory services as an independent contractor and that its management agreement showed Vedanta did not have capacity to control KCM.
Before the two-day hearing, Zambian campaigners George Mumbi and Esson Simbeye said their community has “suffered severe pollution of water sources ever since Vedanta took over the mines,” leaving the land “poisoned” and local people “very sick.”
“People used to think British mining companies were better, but Vedanta are one of the worst foreign investors in Zambia,” they said. “It is time that justice came home to roost in Britain.”
Samarendra Das from activist group Foil Vedanta said the company’s “remorseless pollution of the River Kafue since 2005 continues the colonial legacy of environmental racism which made the Zambian copperbelt a global pollution hotspot.”
The villagers’ solicitor, Oliver Holland of Leigh Day, said: “Our clients continue to suffer from the effects of the pollution both on their health and their livelihoods.” He said Vedanta’s appeals had caused years of delay.
British Green Party MP Caroline Lucas expressed solidarity with the Zambian claimants. She lambasted “Vedanta’s irresponsible pursuit of profit,” saying: “When British corporations like Vedanta cause toxic pollution overseas, it’s absolutely right that they pay for the damage.”
The case could have far-reaching implications for other British multinational corporations such as Shell, which use a network of subsidiaries around the world.
Nimmo Bassey, a close associate of the murdered Nigerian anti-Shell activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, said: “The Vedanta case mirrors the Niger Delta situation and underscores the critical need for solidarity between communities impacted by mining across the continent — indeed, across the world.”
The case continues.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.