MAC: Mines and Communities

Somare gives blessing to Bougainville court case

Published by MAC on 2001-04-23

Somare gives blessing


Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has given his blessings to the Bougainville class action in United States against mining giant Rio Tinto (CRA). "I was one of the signatories when I was leader of the Opposition. I said that that court must be taken to the United States not on our soil," Sir Michael said yesterday. "My thoughts were that this was a court matter. Let them sort it out. It has nothing to do with the US Government; It has nothing to do with any investor; It something to do with Bougainville and CRA - our country and CRA. So let that court continue."

He was responding to Bougainville Governor John Momis challenging him to decide whether he sided with the people or with CRA. Sir Michael and Mr Momis's exchange was in relation to former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta (now Opposition Leader) moving to defend investors' confidence in PNG through the Compensation Act and asking for the action to be discontinued.

The National - 6 Sept 02

Green light for case against CRA

By JOHN APAMI, PRIME MINISTER of PNG

Sir Michael Somare yesterday gave the green light for launching a class action lawsuit against mining giant CRA. The suit has been filed by Bougainvilleans in an American court. Sir Michael said that he was a signatory to the court file in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition when the matter was raised two years ago. "It is a court case between the people and a company and should continue," he said. He was responding to a question from Bougainville Governor John Momis who wanted to know Sir Michael's stand regarding the lawsuit. Mr Momis said the Bougainville conflict was sparked off by CRA as it neglected the people.

The company had not done anything while the country was going through the conflict during the past 10 years, he said. Mr Momis said the former prime minister had refused to entertain the lawsuit brought by the people. "Winning or losing the case is not the point. The people are just testing the case," he said. "What is your position on the issue? Are you going to deny the people their right in taking the company to court or will you take the same position as the previous government?" Mr Momis asked the Prime Minister. Sir Michael said that the issue was a court case and should be sorted out in court only. He noted that the case had been filed in an America court and would be dealt with under US laws. Meanwhile, Western Governor Dr Bob Danaya has also put on notice a series of questions relating to the alleged environmental damage caused by the Ok Tedi Mine. He said there were three court cases pending at present. Two of them were in Australian courts and one is in PNG, brought by landowners against the damage caused by the mine's operations. Dr Danaya wanted to know if the Prime Minister would institute an independent team to investigate the damage caused by the mine.

Sir Michael said the questions were complex and needed to be answered in detail. He asked Dr Danaya to put the questions on the notice paper. BHP indemnity unfair: MP THE Government has been asked to consider removing the indemnity clausesecured by BHP Billiton in the ninth Supplemental Agreement passed by the last PNG Parliament in December.

If successful, BHP Billiton is likely to face more environmental damage-related lawsuits related to the Ok Tedi Mining Ltd. There are now two cases in the Port Moresby Court and a third in the Victorian courts. Western Governor Dr Bob Danaya, who raised the question, has also called for an independent commission of inquiry into pollution from the Porgera Mine flowing into the Strickland and Fly Rivers. This was adding further damage to the Middle Fly and South Fly which had affected the people, down-river sago and barramundi fisheries in Torres Straits and Gulf, and the Great Barrier Reef. Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare said he would consult with Mining Minister Sam Akoitai and answer that question and other queries raised by Dr Danaya. Dr Danaya, during Question Time in Parliament, had asked the Somare-Marat government what its position was on the agreement, and whether there would be a review of the agreement that had "caused great division and inequities among the Western Province people".

He had specifically asked for the removal of the inequities and the indemnity, backing his questions with concerns that environmental pollution was worsening. He backed this with information that there were three BHP-Billiton directors in the PNG trust company based in Singapore that oversees the former BHP-Billiton 52 per cent share holding in OTML. The stake was left as a parting gift, although critics see this as an attempt to appease the Western Province people over the pollution of the Fly River and subsequent environmental damage. "Their gift continues to pour 100,000 tonnes of pollution daily into PNG's biggest river," Dr Danaya said. "South Fly now receives as little as K27 per head each month from the mine, and this will reduce in future.

Although OTML sells copper in US dollars, Western Province is paid a set kina value so while the kina devalues, so does the value of our compensation." Dr Danaya also asked the Prime Minister to: * table the World Bank report and KPMG report on the Ok Tedi mine and its future respectively; * explain how the Government was using the K984 million lending facility to correct the mine's environmental damage; and * state the Government's position on concerns of pollution raised by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park authorities on the park originating in Ok Tedi. ,

Source: Papua New Guinea Post Courier September 6-8 2002
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