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Vedanta to contest UK court pollution ruling

KABANDA CHULU, Lusaka
VEDANTA Resources and its subsidiary, Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), will challenge the jurisdiction of the English court to hear and adjudicate the water pollution claims by Chingola residents in relation to KCM’s operations in Zambia.
A United Kingdom (UK) High Court judge has agreed, and allowed Zambian residents to take legal action against the mining giant in London, despite arguments that the matter should be tried in Zambia, because the claimants are Zambians and the alleged damage occurred in Zambia.
In a statement posted on the Vedanta website, Vedanta Resources president-group communications and sustainability Roma Balwani said the mining giant will challenge the decision of the English High Court.
“This judgment relates solely to the jurisdiction of the English courts to hear these claims.  It is not a ruling or a determination on the merits of the claims.
“Vedanta and KCM are examining the court’s judgment and considering all options, including an appeal of the Court’s decision,” she stated.
Earlier last week, English High Court judge Justice Coulson granted jurisdiction over the claims which involve allegations of serious environmental pollution, and rejected the KCMs’ arguments that the cases must be brought to Zambia.
This means that 1,826 Zambian villagers can proceed to sue in the UK courts.
Both UK-based Vedanta and Zambian KCM argued that the UK court had no jurisdiction to try the claims against them.
However, the lawyers for the claimants argued that the cases should be tried by the English courts.
They argued that under European Union law, the claimants had a legal right to bring a claim against UK-based Vedanta. They also argued that Vedanta should bear equal legal responsibility, given its control over its mining subsidiary, the profit it makes from the mine, and its alleged knowledge of the pollution.
The villagers allege that their water sources and farming land were contaminated by the copper mining operations of both companies, and that they have suffered continual pollution since 2004, causing them to fall sick and lose their crops.

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