Message Jeu 17 Nov 2011 09:07

Vedanta Resources fined again for polluting water at its min

Vedanta Resources fined again for polluting water at its mining unit in Zambia
Wednesday 16 Nov, 2011Vedanta Resources Plc is again on the bad side of the law after the company operating as Konkola Copper Mine polluted water and affected more than 2,000 residents of Chingola.

Following the action by the company, the second time since 2006, the Lusaka High Court instituted punitive measures and fined the miner a total of USD 2 million for the action against all the affected victims.

Describing the action by Konkola Copper Mines lack of corporate responsibility, criminal and a tipping point for corporate recklessness’ Judge Philip Musonda ordered that each of the affected residents of Chingola be paid USD 800 in addition to USD 200 for being victims of the mining company’s action.

Mr Joy Sata spokesperson of KCM said that the matter was receiving active attention and reiterated the company’s commitment to ensuring the safety of all including workers was priority.

The company said that it will strive to follow all the local regulatory requirements on environment, health and safety at all its operations. The company has a zero tolerance policy on any action that will compromise the health and safety of its employees or that of the residents of the community. It has over the years taken many steps including a multi million dollar investment program to address the many legacy issues it inherited at privatization to avert such incidences.

Significant progress has been made to date in upgrading its assets and reducing the risk of any adverse impacts on the environment. These have included the construction of a state of the art, environmentally friendly smelter, which replaced the older Nkana smelter, replacement of the old Konkola concentrator with a new zero-discharge concentrator, the replacement of old tailings pipelines, tanks and other critical assets at the Tailings Leach Operations.

However according to the judgment delivered by Supreme Court Judge Phiri on November 10th 2011 KCM was ordered to compensate all the affected residents with USD 800 each as general and US$200 punitive damages for discharging effluence from its mining operations to the stream where they source their water. It was further ordered that the damages should attract Bank of Zambia long term deposit rate from the issuance of the writ to the Day of Judgment and later short term deposit rate until payment is made.

Justice Musonda, who castigated KCM for its irresponsible behavior was hopeful that the court action would deter would be offenders from discharging poisonous substances without diminishing their potency not to cause harm to the environment, human beings and animals. The polluting of the water by the mining company was lack of corporate responsibility, criminal and a tipping point for corporate recklessness.

According to Justice Musonda, Facts of the matter are that in 2007, Mr James Nyasulu and 2,000 others petitioned the courts over KCM’s action, the Environmental Council of Zambia and the Chingola municipal council for discharging effluence from its mining operations to their drinking stream.

ECZ, sued as second defendants, was taken to court for allegedly failing or neglecting to carry out inspection or supervise the pipes to meet the required acceptable standards while the council was dragged into the matter for failing to take adequate measures to mitigate and control the effects of the pollution of water supply by maintaining sufficient water reserves. The court could however not find any case against ECZ because there was no negligence on the agency’s part and if anything, it did the best it could by even shutting KCM operations at one point. ECZ was dealing with a truant investor and that it was not too late for him to prosecute KCM and set an example to others.

Justice Musonda noted that although Zambia needed foreign investment to improve the well being of the nation, it did not warrant that its people should be dehumanized by greed and crude capitalism’ which put profit above human life. The plaintiffs had proved their case against KCM in common law and statutory law that the mining company was reckless and had no regard for human, animal and plant life because they thought they were politically correct and connected.

One of the victims, Mr Mulenga had told the court that in November 2006 there was no water supply for 10 days in Kabundi, one of the residences in Chingola and Mulonga water had supplied them with water pumped from Kafue River.

After drinking the water he experience stomach pains, diahorrea and chest pains and that his sight was also affected. Another witness Mr Siku Nkambalume said that his wife went to draw water from Kafue River for cooking, bathing and drinking but the following day, there was pain in his stomach and had a running stomach including the children.

A doctor from Kakoso clinic who diagnosed Nkambule affirmed that the water was polluted. In November last year KCM fell victim to another pollution case and was fined USD 4,449 for polluting the Kafue river which environmental agency regretted describing KCM’s action as acting with impunity.

KCM, Zambia’s copper flagship, is undergoing expansion to bolster production at all its units by 2013. It presently has the capacity to produce an average 250,000 metric tons of copper per annum.