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UK court rules in favour of hearing case of mine water pollution in Zambia

6 May, 2019In a landmark case likely to open doors for lawsuits against multinational mining companies that discharge toxic waste into rivers where community livelihoods depend on, the UK supreme court held that the case brought against Vedanta Resources will be heard in the English courts.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Mineworkers Union of Zambia, welcomed the court ruling in which Vedanta Resources will be tried for polluting water and making it toxic for drinking, irrigation, and for livestock thus destroying the livelihoods of local farmers in the villages around the Nchanga Copper Mine owned by the company’s subsidiary Konkola Copper Company.

In 2015, 1,826 villagers from communities living around the mining operations in Chingola District took the case to the UK courts. Although Vedanta wanted the case to be heard in Zambia, the court ruled that the villagers had the right to choose where they wanted the case to be heard.

The villagers probably took this route because of little adherence by mining companies to Zambian laws including the Environmental protection and Pollution Control Act (1990), Mines and Minerals Development Act (2008), and the Environment Management Act (2011). Lackluster enforcement by the policy bodies also diminishes the villagers confidence in ever getting justice.
Said Joseph Chewe, the president of the Mineworkers Union of Zambia:
“The union wants to see justice prevail and hopes that the affected villages whose main source of survival is farming get proper compensation from the mining giant. The ruling sends a warning to mining companies that pollute the environment and threaten the lives of communities. The Zambia Environmental Management Authority must strictly supervise the mines to ensure that environmental regulations are adhered to.”
Civil society organization under the banner of the recent 2nd Copperbelt Alternative Mining Indaba in Chingola, said companies not only pollute the environment, but also promote precarious working conditions with short contracts and low wages. This has resulted in most workers living in poverty. The indaba also called on mining companies to create decent jobs.
Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director for mining, said:

“Mining must be carried out in a sustainable way that considers the livelihoods of affected communities and should benefit communities and not poison their water sources. Further, the communities should also benefit from decent jobs and living wages.”