Vedanta Resources has taken the government of Zambia to international arbitration following the seizure of its copper mines in the country.

The company, which is controlled by Indian metals tycoon Anil Agarwal, said a shareholder agreement with the Zambian government “provides for disputes to be submitted to international arbitration in Johannesburg.”

The move comes after the government of President Edgar Lungu seized control of Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), one of Africa’s biggest copper producers, this month, saying it had breached environmental and financial regulations.

Thousands of Zambian villagers are suing Vedanta in the English courts over alleged pollution at its mines, claiming a KCM copper mine damaged their health and their livestock due to poisonous emissions into local rivers over many years.

Vedanta said that its chief executive Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan held meetings with the Zambian government on Wednesday. Vedanta was assured by the government that it had not entered into any “sale” agreements with other parties for the mines, it said.

State-controlled Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH) is seeking liquidation of KCM, in which it owns 20 per cent.

Vedanta, which owns 80 per cent of the company, claims that it has invested over $3bn in KCM since it acquired the business in 2004, adding processing capacity and extending the mine life.

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