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BHP lawsuit (re Papua New Guinea)

In 1994, Papua-New Guinean landowners sued BHP in Australia, alleging BHP's operations at a copper mine caused the destruction of the surrounding environment and of their traditional lifestyle. In 2013, the Australian Parliament removed BHP's immunity from suit and in 2014 the Court ordered BHP to stop dumping mine waste into nearby rivers.

 

In 1994, Papua-New Guinean (PNG) landowners sued BHP in the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia alleging that BHP’s operations at the Ok Tedi copper mine caused destruction of the surrounding environment and of their traditional lifestyle.  The plaintiffs alleged that BHP dumped mine tailings waste into the Ok Tedi and Fly Rivers.  In 1996, BHP and the plaintiffs reached an out-of-court settlement which included payment of approximately AUS$40 million in financial compensation as well as the dredging of tailings from the rivers in an attempt to limit further damage.  In 2000, the plaintiffs sued BHP in Australia again, for breaching the terms of the 1996 settlement related to environmental mitigation at the mine.  In February 2002, BHP Billiton (BHP merged with Billiton in 2001) withdrew from the Ok Tedi mine, transferring its 52% equity stake to the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program Limited.  At the same time, BHP Billiton signed Mine Continuation Agreements with most local clans or landowning groups.  These agreements signified that the local groups consented to the continuation of mining activity at Ok Tedi, and they agreed to discharge and release BHP Billiton from any liability related to the Ok Tedi mine.

In January 2007, landowner groups from the Ningerum indigenous people filed suit in PNG National Court against BHP Billiton and the operators of the Ok Tedi copper mine for civil damages exceeding US$4 billion.  The plaintiff groups in this case had not signed Mine Continuation Agreements.  BHP Billiton and the other defendants have applied to the court to have the proceedings struck.  In September 2013 the Parliament passed a law removing BHP Billiton’s immunity with regards to environmental claims.  In January 2014 a court ordered Oki Tedi Mining to stop dumping mine waste and tailings into rivers.

- "PNG court orders Ok Tedi to halt dumping waste", Liam Cochrane, Australia Plus, 27 Jan 2014
- “PNG villagers sue BHP, Ok Tedi miners”, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Jan 2007
- “Litigating Ok Tedi (Again)”, Stuart Kirsch, Cultural Survival Quarterly, 31 Aug 2002
- “Legal action starts over Ok Tedi mine”, Asia Pulse, 12 Apr 2000
- “In a Fouled Jungle, Tribes Win One”, Kevin Murphy, New York Times, 12 Jun 1996
- [PDF]“Acting globally: Eco-politics in Papua New Guinea”, Stuart Kirsch, Journal of the International Institute [USA], vol. 3, no. 3, Summer 1996

- BHP Billiton: Environmental Incidents And Fines, 2007 [scroll down to “Former Operations – Ok Tedi Mining Limited”]
- BHP Billiton: Court Dismisses Ok Tedi Proceedings, 16 Jan 2004
- BHP Billiton: BHP Billiton Withdraws from Ok Tedi Copper Mine and Establishes Development Fund for Benefit of Papua New Guinea People, 8 Feb 2002
- BHP Billiton: Legal Action on Ok Tedi Misconceived: BHP, 11 Apr 2000
- Ok Tedi Mining: Community Mine Continuation Agreements
- Mineral Policy Institute: Cracks in the Facade of BHP's exit from Ok Tedi Mining Disaster Appear, 22 Jan 2007

-[PDF] Court order [asking Oki Tedi Mining to restrain from dumping mine waste & tailings into rivers], National Court of Justice at Waigani (Papua New Guinea), 24 Jan 2014

Judgments of Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia:

21 December 2001, granting injunction to enforce June 1996 settlement
- [PDF] 20 September 1995
- [PDF] 8 November 1994

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Article
22 October 2013

Ok Tedi immunity gone, with implications beyond BHP [Papua New Guinea]

Author: Sara Bice, Conversation

...[T]he Papua New Guinean [PNG] Parliament removed former mine operator BHP Billiton’s immunity from legal prosecution for environmental damages caused…BHP Billiton’s legal immunity arose through a 2001 agreement in which the company voluntarily divested its interests in Ok Tedi, placing its majority shareholding into a charitable trust, the PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP). The Program held 63.4% ownership of the mine, with the PNG Government holding the remainder. This recent legislation transfers full ownership to the PNG state and removes that agreed immunity…In passing the legislation, PM O'Neill declared to Parliament that the immunity granted to BHP Billiton marked “a very bad decision…preventing its own people from exercising their right under law to sue for permanent damages done to their environment and their livelihood”...

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Article
26 January 2014

PNG court orders Ok Tedi to halt dumping waste

Author: Liam Cochrane, Australia Plus

Papua New Guinea's National Court has ordered the Ok Tedi mining company to stop dumping waste into a river, a move which would effectively shut the mine. Communities in the South Fly River area, 500 kilometres downstream from the mine, filed a writ claiming the dumping of waste and tailings into the nearby river system is illegal…"A lot of the wildlife and fish is gone and it's going to be a time bomb before, the people will die and float like fish,"[said local government president]…Justice Gibbs Salika has ordered $19 million of the money held in the accounts to be used for extensive research into the environmental and health impacts to the South Fly River and the Torres Strait…A spokeswoman for Ok Tedi said the company has no comment...

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Lawsuit
18 February 2014

BHP lawsuit (re Papua New Guinea)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

In 1994, Papua-New Guinean (PNG) landowners sued BHP in the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia alleging that BHP’s operations at the Ok Tedi copper mine caused destruction of the surrounding environment and of their traditional lifestyle.  The plaintiffs alleged that BHP dumped mine tailings waste into the Ok Tedi and Fly Rivers.  In 1996, BHP and the plaintiffs reached an out-of-court settlement which included payment of approximately AUS$40 million in financial compensation as well as the dredging of tailings from the rivers in an attempt to limit further damage.  In 2000, the plaintiffs sued BHP in Australia again, for breaching the terms of the 1996 settlement related to environmental mitigation at the mine.  In February 2002, BHP Billiton (BHP merged with Billiton in 2001) withdrew from the Ok Tedi mine, transferring its 52% equity stake to the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program Limited.  At the same time, BHP Billiton signed Mine Continuation Agreements with most local clans or landowning groups.  These agreements signified that the local groups consented to the continuation of mining activity at Ok Tedi, and they agreed to discharge and release BHP Billiton from any liability related to the Ok Tedi mine.

In January 2007, landowner groups from the Ningerum indigenous people filed suit in PNG National Court against BHP Billiton and the operators of the Ok Tedi copper mine for civil damages exceeding US$4 billion.  The plaintiff groups in this case had not signed Mine Continuation Agreements.  BHP Billiton and the other defendants have applied to the court to have the proceedings struck.  In September 2013 the Parliament passed a law removing BHP Billiton’s immunity with regards to environmental claims.  In January 2014 a court ordered Oki Tedi Mining to stop dumping mine waste and tailings into rivers.

- "PNG court orders Ok Tedi to halt dumping waste", Liam Cochrane, Australia Plus, 27 Jan 2014
- “PNG villagers sue BHP, Ok Tedi miners”, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Jan 2007

- “Litigating Ok Tedi (Again)”, Stuart Kirsch, Cultural Survival Quarterly, 31 Aug 2002

- “Legal action starts over Ok Tedi mine”, Asia Pulse, 12 Apr 2000

- “In a Fouled Jungle, Tribes Win One”, Kevin Murphy, International Herald Tribune, 12 Jun 1996

- [PDF]“Acting globally: Eco-politics in Papua New Guinea”, Stuart Kirsch, Journal of the International Institute [USA], vol. 3, no. 3, Summer 1996

 

- BHP Billiton: Environmental Incidents And Fines, 2007 [scroll down to “Former Operations – Ok Tedi Mining Limited”]

- BHP Billiton: Court Dismisses Ok Tedi Proceedings, 16 Jan 2004

- BHP Billiton: BHP Billiton Withdraws from Ok Tedi Copper Mine and Establishes Development Fund for Benefit of Papua New Guinea People, 8 Feb 2002

- BHP Billiton: Legal Action on Ok Tedi Misconceived: BHP, 11 Apr 2000

- Ok Tedi Mining: Community Mine Continuation Agreements

- Mineral Policy Institute: Cracks in the Facade of BHP's exit from Ok Tedi Mining Disaster Appear, 22 Jan 2007

 

-[PDF] Court order [asking Oki Tedi Mining to restrain from dumping mine waste & tailings into rivers], National Court of Justice at Waigani (Papua New Guinea), 24 Jan 2014

 

Judgments of Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia:

- 21 December 2001, granting injunction to enforce June 1996 settlement

- [PDF] 20 September 1995

- [PDF] 8 November 1994

Article
28 February 2014

[PDF] Injustice Incorporated: Corporate Abuses and the Human Right to Remedy

Author: Amnesty International

This book seeks to ground the debate on the human right to remedy in cases of corporate-related abuse in the lived experiences of victims…[It]… focuses on four emblematic cases and exposes how corporate political and financial power intertwined with specific legal obstacles to allow companies to evade accountability and deny, or severely curtail, remedy…The cases are…[the] 1984 Bhopal gas leak in India…[the] case of Omai gold in Guyana...[the] Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea…[and the] dumping of toxic waste in Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire…[Trafigura responded that] it is simply wrong to suggest that the issues have not had the right judicial scrutiny...[Union Carbide responded that] [a]ll of the victims’ claims…were resolved a quarter-century ago by a comprehensive settlement…[Includes full responses from Arcelor Mittal, Dow Chemical, Tata Group, Trafigura Beheer, Union Carbide (part of Dow)] [Also refers to BHP Billiton, BP, Shell, Vedanta Resources]

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Article
9 April 2014

Financial power: Behind the lack of remedy for corporations’ human rights abuses

Author: Audrey Gaughran of Amnesty International in Righting Finance

…Amnesty International has been working on…the right to effective remedy in cases of corporate-related human rights abuses...[We]…repeatedly found ourselves confronting the way companies exercised political power to the detriment of the right to remedy…[Corporate] influence on the right to remedy often began at a very early stage in the investment process – when companies influenced, behind the scenes, the laws and regulations that would govern their investments in developing economies…The need for foreign direct investment (FDI) can leave developing countries relatively powerless in their dealings with corporate interests...International financial institutions (IFIs) such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have played a key role in promoting investor-friendly regulatory environments in…particularly developing countries…IFIs prescriptions… have included reducing or removing regulations that protect the environment and human rights…

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