MAC: Mines and Communities

Glencore faces legal action over pollution caused by Zambian copper

Published by MAC on 2012-01-23
Source: Daily Mail (2012-01-15)

Glencore faces legal action over pollution caused by Zambian copper operations

Daily Mail

15 January 2012

Glencore is facing legal action over pollution caused by its vast and lucrative copper operations in Zambia.

Glencore's Mopani Copper Mines subsidiary has been a thorn in the firm's side since its £6billion float in May last year, throwing up allegations of environmental recklessness and tax avoidance, which the company denies.

The Swiss-based firm could find itself dragged through the courts after Zambian campaign group the Centre for Trade Policy and Development demanded the company explain itself or face a lawsuit.

In a letter obtained by the Daily Mail, lawyers for CTPD claim that the ‘leaching' process used in copper production is causing sulphuric acid to leak into water used by communities living and working near the mine.

CTPD cites two incidents in 2008 and 2011 when residents reported ill effects due to suspected acid in drinking water. The letter warns that Glencore's ‘mining methods are not consistent with the right to a safe and healthy environment and likely to threaten that right'.

A further complaint relates to the high level of sulphur in the air, which CTPD says has caused respiratory and skin problems.

The Mail witnessed the choking, foul - smelling clouds during a recent visit to the Zambian copperbelt.

CTPD said it would launch legal action in Zambia - or even in London - unless its demands are met. The group wants Mopani to discontinue mining methods that contaminate or pollute the air and submit the mining to an ‘environmental audit'.

It has also asked Mopani to compensate for harm to health and the environment.

Glencore has previously insisted that it is not responsible for the provision of water in the area and points to its use of water testing.

It also says that to close the copper smelter would put thousands out of work.

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