In a major setback for Vedanta, a major mining company, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court has ruled that villagers in Zambia can sue the mining giant in British Courts over alleged pollution by a copper mine in the African country. Vedanta had challenged the extra-territorial jurisdiction of British courts which was turned down.
The UK Supreme Court’s judgment and specifically the handling of the issue of ‘jurisdiction’ is seen to having a wider significance for parent companies and their liability for alleged activity abroad.
A total of 1,826 men and women from Zambia’s poor farming communities had sought to bring proceedings against the company, alleging toxic emissions from the Nchanga Copper Mine (owned by KCM) into waterways on which they are heavily reliant for drinking and irrigation. The claims in the proceedings are in the nature of torts of negligence and breach of duty.