After six years of seeking damages for the pollution that has affected their lives, more than 2,500 Zambian villagers have been awarded a settlement by a UK company and its Zambian copper mining subsidiary.
“Without the admission of liability, Vedanta Resources Limited and Konkola Copper Mines Plc confirm that they have agreed, for the benefit of local communities, the settlement of all claims brought against them by Zambian claimants represented by English law firm Leigh Day,” according to the joint statement.
The claim focused on the toxic discharge from the mine that affected 2,500 people, including 643 children, living near the Nchanga Copper Mine in the villages of Shimulala, Kakosa, Hippo Pool and Hellen.
The population there earns its livelihood primarily by farming and fishing.
They claimed that the discharge from the mine polluted the drinking and bathing water, as well as that used for irrigation, leading to severe health problems.
The copper mine is run by Konkola. With 16,000 employees, it is Zambia’s largest private employer. Vedanta, a UK firm, is one of the largest mining companies in the world. It bought a controlling share in Konkola in 2004.
Leigh Day, an English law firm, brought the claim to the UK in 2015. The London Supreme Court ruled in April 2019 that the case could be brought to trial because parent company Vedanta owed the villagers a duty of care.
Vedanta had published company literature saying that it was responsible for environmental control throughout their grouping of companies, and for sustainability standards. The court ruled the parent company must be held accountable for the claims of pollution.
The Court also agreed that the case would not get a fair trial in Zambian courts due to lack of funding and appropriate legal expertise.