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Zambian Villagers Win Right to Sue Vedanta in English Courts

Protesters hold plaques outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Britain July 5, 2017.

Nearly 2,000 Zambians can sue Vedanta Resources in the English courts over alleged pollution of their village after an appeal court on Friday threw out the miner’s attempt to block their legal action.

The judgment by London’s Court of Appeal could pave the way for other London-listed multinationals to be held liable in the English courts for the actions of their subsidiaries abroad.

Vedanta said in a statement it would seek the right to appeal to the Supreme Court, the highest in the English legal system. It also said Friday’s decision was on jurisdiction and “was not a ruling or a determination on the merits of the claims”.

Three senior High Court judges dismissed an appeal by Vedanta and its Zambian subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM)against a ruling in May last year when a High Court judge decided the claim could proceed in the English courts on behalf of 1,826 Zambian villagers.

The villagers allege that their land and livelihood have been destroyed by pollution from the Nchanga Copper Mine, which is owned by Vedanta through its subsidiary KCM.

London law firm Leigh Day argued the English courts were the only route for the villagers, whom they are representing on a “no-win, no-fee” basis, to achieve justice, while Vedanta said Zambia was the appropriate jurisdiction.

Separately, Leigh Day is representing residents from the Niger Delta in a case against Royal Dutch Shell and has appealed against a High Court ruling earlier this year that it could not be sued in London over oil spills in Nigeria.