Zambia: In Zambia, a State Asset Grab and a Hazardous Leak Raise Many Questions

analysis

In what seems a transparent asset grab by the state, mining company Vedanta is locked in a legal battle with the Zambian government to regain control of its KCM copper and cobalt asset. Vedanta is now raising alarm bells about safety after a sulphur leak hospitalised more than 270 people, most of whom were schoolchildren.

Last week, according to reports in the Zambian media, 53 employees of Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) and 232 schoolchildren were hospitalised after an apparent electrical surge caused a sulphur dioxide emission from KCM's acid plant.

The effects of sulphur exposure are anything but pleasant. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: "Sulphur dioxide is severely irritating to the eyes, mucous membranes, skin, and respiratory tract. Bronchospasm, pulmonary oedema, pneumonitis, and acute airway obstruction can occur."

Yet any ambulance chaser who is hoping to launch a hefty class action suit will face a number of challenges, as a provisional liquidator is trying to operate the asset, leaving its ownership in a state of legal limbo. A warm body with lots of cash at the top of the ownership food chain would help a lawyer's cause, and right now that looks like a lost...

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