* That is because they know in Zambia they can bribe the judges like they have always done
Vedanta Resources has appealed to the UK supreme court to prevent 1,800 Zambian villagers bringing a pollution case involving its subsidiary KCM from being tried in the UK.
Lawyers for Vedanta Resources told Britain’s highest court that the case – brought by villagers who allege that their land and livelihoods were destroyed by water contamination from Vedanta-owned Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) – should be heard in Zambia instead.
The UK courts have resisted previous attempts by Vedanta to have the case moved. Last year, the court of appeal upheld a high court ruling that the Zambian claimants had a legal right to bring their claim against a British company, citing KCM’s “opaque finances” as one reason the claimants may not be granted justice in Zambia.
Vedanta is now appealing against this ruling.
Leigh Day solicitor Oliver Holland, who is representing the villagers, said: “Our clients continue to suffer from the effects of the pollution both on their health and their livelihoods.
“It is disappointing that Vedanta refuse to accept the judgments of the high court and court of appeal and continue to fight against our clients’ case, causing a delay of over three years to the progress of these claims.”
The supreme court’s decision, expected in April, could set a precedent for “duty of care” owed by a UK parent company to the communities affected by a foreign subsidiary, said Marilyn Croser, director of Core, a British civil society network focusing on corporate accountability.
“This case is a pivotal test for the development of parent company liability for human rights and environmental harm,” said Croser.
“Victims of corporate human rights abuses face multiple barriers in holding companies to account and securing access to justice. A clear statement from the UK supreme court affirming the duty of care principle would help communities who have been harmed by corporate activities and would provide an important confirmation of the scope of parent companies’ obligations.”
The ruling – if decided in favour of the claimants – could have major implications for British multinationals with operations abroad. Leigh Day, is seeking the right to appeal to the supreme court regarding a claim by 40,000 Nigerian farmers and fishermen against Royal Dutch Shell in London, in relation to oil spills in the Niger Delta.
The firm is also seeking to take a case against Unilever to the supreme court relating to a claim brought by more than 200 Kenyan tea plantation workers and their families, who want compensation after being attacked in a bout of ethnic violence.
Mining giant Vedanta argues UK court should not hear Zambia pollution case
Zambian campaigners George Mumbi and Esson Simbeye said they have spent the past 12 years campaigning for justice in Zambia, where “land is poisoned” and “people are sick”, to no avail.
“Villagers along the River Kafue, as well as Chingola residents, have suffered severe pollution of water sources ever since Vedanta took over the mines,” Mumbi and Simbeye said in a statement.
“People used to think British mining companies were better, but Vedanta is one of the worst foreign investors in Zambia. It is time that justice came home to roost in Britain.”