MAC: Mines and Communities

Rio Tinto Wins Review of Ruling on Papua New Guinea Claims

Published by MAC on 2007-08-20

Rio Tinto Wins Review of Ruling on Papua New Guinea Claims

By Karen Gullo, (Bloomberg)

20th August 2007

Rio Tinto Group, the world's third-largest mining company, will get a new U.S. federal appeals court review of whether it must face claims of human-rights violations at a mine in Papua New Guinea.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco today set aside a decision by a panel of three of its judges to reinstate a 2000 lawsuit by landowners claiming a company copper mine on Bougainville Island, once one of the world's largest, contributed to the deaths of thousands of people. A panel of 11 judges will now hear the case.

Rio Tinto's Panguna mine was shut in 1989 after armed attacks. Plaintiffs claim the London-based company and the Papua New Guinea government formed a joint venture to operate the mine, and are responsible for deaths related to civilian resistance to its operation.

The U.S. court granted Rio Tinto's request for a review by 11 of its judges in an ``en banc'' proceeding, without giving a reason. A year ago, the smaller panel said 12 landowners, who seek to represent thousands of civilians, could proceed with claims of war crimes, racial discrimination and environmental damages against Rio Tinto.

The suit, filed under a law allowing non-citizens to sue in the U.S. for international law violations, seeks damages for alleged human rights abuses and chemical dumping. Rio Tinto has denied the allegations.

BHP Billiton Ltd. is the world's biggest mining company. Ango-American Plc is the second biggest. * [see editorial note]

Rio Tinto stock rose 96 pence, or 3.2 percent, to 3,078 pence ($61.05) in London.

The case is Alexis Holyweek Sarei v Rio Tinto PLC, 02-56256, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, San Francisco.

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at .

* Editorial note: By value of sales Anglo American is the world's second biggest mining company, but Rio Tinto is the first, by market capitalisation


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