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In landmark judgment, UK Supreme Court says Zambian villagers can proceed with pollution claim in English courts

12, Apr 2019 | CJP Team

On Wednesday, April 10, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled that more than 1,800 villagers in Zambia, who have alleged that their water supply has been polluted due to toxins from an opencast mine, can proceed with their claim in English courts, the Guardian reported. 1,826 villagers in Zambia’s Chingola region, in the Copperbelt province, have alleged that effluent from the Nchanga mine, which is near the Kafue river and its tributaries, has polluted their water. The case is against London-based mining conglomerate Vedanta Resources, and its subsidiary, Koncola Copper Mines (KCM). Local fisherman and farmers have alleged continuous pollution since Vedanta acquired KCM in 2004, claiming that in 2006, the Kafue turned bright blue due to acid and copper sulphate, and “poisoned water sources for 40,000 people,” the Guardian said. The villagers have alleged that chemicals like cadmium and lead leaking into the water have caused chronic ailments, and deaths. Vedanta and KCM had contended that the case should be tried in Zambia, but the Supreme Court justices agreed with the claimants’ argument that they may not have access to justice in the southern African country. The Guardian noted that similar cases against BHP Billiton, Royal Dutch Shell, and Unilever–regarding pollution in developing countries–had been waiting for a decision in this case before they could move forward.

 

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