Zambia copper mine settles villagers’ pollution claims

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A mine worker walks past conveyors and pipe systems at the concentrator plant at the Nchanga copper mine, operated by Konkola Copper Mines Plc, in Chingola, Zambia, on Thursday, March 17, 2016. Konkola Copper Mines is a unit of Vedanta Resources Plc, the mining company founded by Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A mine worker walks past conveyors and pipe systems at the concentrator plant at the Nchanga copper mine, operated by Konkola Copper Mines Plc, in Chingola, Zambia. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Zambia-based Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a unit of London-listed Vedanta Resources, has agreed to settle claims brought by more than 2,500 villagers suing the mining conglomerate over pollution, the holding company and lawyers said Tuesday.

The villagers filed a claim in London in 2015 against KCM, one of Africa’s largest copper producers, and Vedanta for alleged toxic pollution caused by water discharged from its unit Nchanga Copper Mine, situated in Zambia’s central Copperbelt region.

The claimants, which included 643 children, said the toxic discharge affected the health of people living in nearby villages, as well as farming and fishing activities — their primary source of income.

Britain’s Supreme Court in 2019 granted the villagers permission to sue KCM and Vedanta in London after the companies challenged the jurisdiction of English courts to hear their complaint.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, Vedanta and the villagers’ legal representative Leigh Day said the claims had been settled “without 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,” the statement said.

The financial details were not disclosed.

Zambia is Africa’s second-largest copper producer and the Nchanga Copper Mine is the country’s biggest private employer, with around 16,000 staff.

Britain’s Supreme Court judges ruled in April 2019 that London could hear the villagers’ case against Vedanta as KCM’s parent company.

The landmark ruling allowed claimants from the villages, located near the Democratic Republic of Congo, to be heard by the London High Court.

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