MAC: Mines and Communities

Bougainville Legal Action May Still Go Ahead

Published by MAC on 2002-04-02

Bougainville Legal Action May Still Go Ahead

Pacific Beat, Radio Australia

Tuesday, 2 April 2002

In the United States a legal action taken by Bougainvillean landowners against the mining giant Rio Tinto alleging genocide and environmental damage in operating the giant Panguna copper mine on the island may not be over.

The judge hearing the class action suit in California dismissed the case after hearing from the US State Department that the case might adversely affect US foreign policy interests. But she made her dismissal conditional on the landowners being able to continue their action in a PNG court, which is contrary to PNG law. Nick Styant-Brown of the US legal firm Hagens Berman, which represents the landowners, says that law will probably mean the case is reopened in the United States.

Bougainville's Suit can't stop peace: Hill

Papua New Guinea Post Herald - 8th April 2002

Bougainville's class action case against Rio Tinto in the United States is too marginal to derail the peace process on the island. Australian Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill said this in Port Moresby last week, before leaving for Bougainville to assess the progress of the peace process on the island.

Senator Hill was also in PNG to hold talks with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force counterparts and discuss his Government's support for the force's reform program and broader defence cooperation.

Several reports have claimed rebel leaders on the island were outraged at how the PNG and Australian governments had the case rejected by an American court.

"I don't think anyone's going to easily allow a legal case in the margins to derail that peace process. If the case was successful the consequences could be very dramatic," Senator Hill said.

But I think while individuals are entitled to take actions in court, politicians should not allow individuals pursuing their legal rights to derail good policy development and implementation.

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