MAC: Mines and Communities

Court to approve Ok Tedi class action

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

Court to approve Ok Tedi class action

By Barry FitzGerald, The Age, Melbourne,

December 22, 2003

BHP Billiton yesterday confirmed that a settlement has been reached in the April 2000 landowner class action brought against both the group and the operator of the environmentally controversial Ok Tedi copper/goldmine in Papua New Guinea, Ok Tedi Mining Ltd.

The settlement was revealed at the weekend by OTML's 18 per cent shareholder, Inmet Mining of Canada. No details on the settlement were given by Inmet, which was not a party to the proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

BHP Billiton, a 52 per cent shareholder in the mine until February last year, also stopped short of providing any details. The company said it would prefer to wait until court approval of the settlement, expected by mid-January.

The class action involved two legal actions, one by Rex Dagi and one by Gabia Gagarimabu on his own behalf and on behalf of remaining parties to a 1996 settlement agreement covering compensation for the mine's environmental damage and its impact on local landowners.

The class action alleged breaches of the 1996 settlement agreement and sought damages, the specific performance of the agreement and/or an injunction to require the implementation by BHP Billiton and OTML of a tailings containment system.

Tailings from the mine in PNG's rugged Star Mountains continue to be dumped into the Ok Tedi/Fly River system.

According to Inmet, the settlement involves an agreement with the plaintiffs that OTML is in compliance with the terms of the 1996 settlement.

"The settlement provides for dismissal of the proceedings and is subject to court approval, which the parties intend to obtain by the middle of January 2004," the Canadian group said.

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