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'Vedanta gets 2 months to respond to legal action by Zambian villagers'

Pollution a 10-year-old issue but company did nothing to stop it, says legal firm Leigh Day

Aditi Divekar  |  Mumbai 

A bird flies by the Vedanta office building in Mumbai

Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta Resources Plc has not sent any ‘substantial’ response regarding the legal proceedings UK-based legal firm Leigh Day has initiated on behalf of 1,800 Zambian villagers affected by water, soil and sediment pollution caused by the mining company’s copper operations in the region.

Leigh Day said they had initiated proceedings at the UK court on Friday on behalf of the residents of four affected villages in Zambia.

“We are yet to get a substantial response from Vedanta, which has two months to revert to the legal notice sent,” said Oliver Holland, solicitor at Leigh Day who is looking into the Konkola mine pollution issue.

“The company was aware of this action as ‘Letter before claim’ was already sent to Vedanta by end-June,” he added.

Vedanta Resources said in a statement: “The company has not been served with the proceedings and is therefore unable to comment on the content of those proceedings.” Vedanta confirmed it has received a letter from Leigh Day making certain allegations about Konkola mining activities in Zambia.

“We would prefer settling this issue with the company outside the court since court procedure is lengthy, but if the company fails to approach us for negotiations, we will go ahead with the court procedure,” said Holland. “Negotiations will include compensation for affected villagers, the cost of clean-up of pollution and plan to stop pollution in the region,” he added.

Vedanta Resources holds 79.4 per cent stake in Zambia’s Konkola Mines, the largest copper mine in the region. Vedanta subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines plc (KCM) is also one of Africa’s largest integrated copper producers. KCM is also Zambia’s largest private sector employer.

“The pollution issue at Zambia's Konkola Copper Mines is a 10-year-old one. The villagers all these years were approaching the company directly to solve this issue.

The company, however, did nothing to stop pollution and so the villagers finally came to the UK to seek legal help,” said Holland.

All Vedanta’s operating subsidiaries take the health and safety of their employees, the well-being of surrounding communities, and the environment very seriously, according to the company’s statement.

“Our subsidiaries are committed to ensuring that they operate in a safe and sustainable way for the benefit of all of our stakeholders.”

First Published: Tue, August 04 2015. 00:25 IST