BY KAREN GULLO
RIO TINTO GROUP, the world’s second- largest mining company, has lost a bid to throw out genocide and war crime claims in a US lawsuit filed by Papua New Guinea landowners accusing the company of human rights abuses and environmental damage.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Tuesday reversed the dismissal of the two claims while upholding a lower court judge’s decision to toss out claims of racial discrimination and crimes against humanity.
The court said claims of genocide and war crime fall within the limited category of issues that can be considered under a law allowing non-citizens to sue in the US for violations of international law.
In the 2000 lawsuit, landowners claimed Rio Tinto and the PNG government formed a joint venture to operate the Panguna copper mine on Bougainville, once the world’s largest, and were responsible for thousands of deaths related to civilian resistance to the mine.
The appeals court has sent the case back to federal district court in Los Angeles for further proceedings.
The case is Alexis Holyweek Sarei v Rio Tinto PLC, 02- 56256, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco).
Source: Business Week / Bloomberg, 25 October