MAC: Mines and Communities

Akoitai Disappointed Over Rio Tinto Suit

Published by MAC on 2005-07-11
Source: Postcourier

As a US legal team discusses the long-postponed compensation case against Rio Tinto in the US, for damages done to Bougainvilleans and their environment, the country's mining minister says he wants action against the British company to be separated from negotiations with its BCL subsidiary.

Akoitai disappointed over Rio Tinto suit


11 July 2005

Lawyers representing Bougainvilleans on a class action law suit against Rio Tinto in the United States were told to spell out what they wanted to achieve.

Mining Minister and Central Bougainville MP Sam Akoitai said on Friday he was disappointed that the lawyers — led by instigator of the class action Paul Stoker and Brent Walton, of American law firm Hagens Berman Soboc Shapiro, did not properly outline in writing what they were to get out of defending the Bougainvilleans in the case and also how much they would look to claim as compensation from Rio Tinto for alleged damages done to the environment.

He said the lawyers must also specify clearly that they were representing all the Bougainvilleans and not just small groups on the island such as landowners or Dr Alexis Sarei who initiated the class action.

“I do not want my people of Bougainville, especially Central Bougainville, to be used to push for this case if it is not going to benefit them,” Mr Akoitai said.

President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Joseph Kabui told Mr Stoker and his team of lawyers in Buka last week that he wanted the class action suit to be separate from any discussions that the team may have with the autonomous government.

Mr Kabui said Bougainville Copper Limited and Rio Tinto were two separate entities and they should be treated as such.

He said the ABG interests in BCL was to negotiate the take over of any assets BCL had on Bougainville such as the prospecting licences, the right for exploration on Bougainville which included the minerals owned by BCL under the prospecting licence it had with PNG and properties in Arawa and Loloho.

Bougainvilleans leaders in Port Moresby also called on the lawyers not to deal with the president directly and deal with senior officials in the ABG who would then advise Mr Kabui on the developments the class action.

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