Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Riotinto in court strife
Of course picking on arms trader Spicer over Bougainville as I have done previously, perhaps overlooks the real gangsters in this scenario - the mining company, pretend 'community friendly', plunderer of Islands, destroyer of worlds - RioTinto Zinc. It was they that ripped the hole in the planet that was the Panguna mine on Bougainville, and their posting of 3.8 Billion in net income during the rise of copper prices this year only reminds us that its the legalised fat cats that sit in head office 6 St James Square London - and shareholders like Queen Lizzie and her nefarious gang - that were the real target of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army uprising and war throughout the 1990s. Austrailian military support and the PNGDF were just the front for the company's interests.
Lawyers seem to be making a decent effort to corner some of the gangsters though. News from the US circuit court offers something to smirk about. Light up your fat-cat stodgies now! May they go the way of Enron. Thanks Vikki John, check Partizans.
"Islanders Win Court Appeal - Reuters August 7 2006.
By Steve James
NEW YORK, Aug 7 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Monday reinstated a human rights claim brought by Bougainville islanders in Papua New Guinea against international mining giant Rio Tinto Plc (RIO.L: Quote, Profile, Research).
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled the case may be heard in the United States. A U.S. District Court had dismissed the suit, siding with the State Department that the case could not be heard in U.S. courts.
There was no immediate comment from Rio Tinto and a State Department official said it had no comment until it looked into the ruling.
The suit claims that London-based Rio Tinto conspired with the government of Papua New Guinea to quell civil resistance to an environmentally devastating copper mining operation, actions that led to the deaths of thousands.
The State Department argued the case could interfere with the peace process on Bougainville, which is the largest of the North Solomon islands and is part of Papua New Guinea, off the northeast coast of Australia.
The ruling remands the case to U.S. District Court in San Francisco, and says Rio Tinto could be held liable for actions by the PNG government if the company's involvement is proven.
The suit was filed in 2000 and seeks to represent Bougainvilleans exposed to toxins resulting from the Panguna copper mine, people who lost property due to environmental contamination, and people injured or killed during the Bougainville conflict between 1989 and 1999.
Under the Alien Tort Claims Act, foreign nationals can bring suit in the United States against companies that violate international law. Rio Tinto's subsidiary, U.S. Borax Inc., has headquarters in Los Angeles.
The Panguna mine and the political events that erupted since the mine was established are at the core of the case. Between 1969 and 1972, the Australian Colonial Administration leased land on the island to Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), a subsidiary of Rio Tinto. The suit claims that landowners unsuccessfully resisted intrusion onto their land, and many Bougainvilleans were forced to move or flee the island.
According to the suit, Rio Tinto destroyed villages, razed the rain forest, sliced off a hillside and established the world's largest open-pit mine. The mine excavated 300,000 tons of ore and water every day between 1972 and 1988.
The suit alleges that Rio Tinto improperly dumped waste rock and tailings, emitting chemical and air pollutants. The waste destroyed local fish stock, it alleges.
The Bougainville people -- especially children -- began dying more frequently from upper respiratory infections, asthma and tuberculosis, the suit states.
According to the complaint, in 1990, villagers started an uprising which closed the mine, and in response, Rio Tinto and the Papua New Guinea government brought troops in to reopen it. The complaint alleges that Rio Tinto provided transport for the troops and played a role in instituting a military blockade of the island that lasted for almost 10 years."