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

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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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20 September 2013

PNG government takes control of Ok Tedi mine, repeals laws protecting BHP from legal action over pollution

Author: Liam Fox, ABC News (Australia)

Papua New Guinea's government has rammed legislation through parliament giving it complete ownership of the controversial Ok Tedi mine…In a deal with the then government in 2001, BHP divested its majority share of the mine to a charitable trust called the PNG Sustainable Development Program, and in return was granted legal immunity…The bill cancels PNGSDP's shares and issues new shares to the state, giving it complete ownership…In a separate bill, parliament passed legislation making the BHP Billiton now liable for environmental damage caused by the Ok Tedi mine…Parliament's move to repeal BHP's legal immunity from prosecution has received a mixed response…BHP Billiton says it is confident it can not be sued by Papua New Guinea for environmental damage caused by a mine it used to own...[and that] the PNG Government's decision to remove [its] legal immunity shows a lack of good faith and makes the country a more risky place to invest.

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