PNG landowners launch lawsuit over BHP mine waste

PNG landowners launch lawsuit over BHP mine waste

A group of Papua New Guinea land owners has launched a multi-billion-dollar damages claim against Australian mining giant BHP Billiton for dumping mine waste into a river system several years ago.

Five years ago, BHP Billiton donated its 52 per cent stake in the OK Tedi mine in PNG’s western highlands into a trust that would be reinvested to appease local land owners.

Some of that money was used for compensation claims.

But some 13,000 tribes people have launched a $US4 billion ($5.07 billion) claim against BHP.

Lawyer Camillus Narokobi says BHP was reckless and negligent.

“It was them who started the mine until they shifted the share holding to somebody else, and yet they continue to control the companies, they continue to control the operating company,” he said.

BHP says it will fight the lawsuit.

The company says it removed liability for its shareholders five years ago, when the company donated its 52 per cent share to a trust to be invested back into the region and made compensation payments to villagers.

But Mr Narokobi says his clients never accepted the payments.

“Those that were strong enough to say, ‘No, this money’s not enough,’ so they’re not parties to the agreement,” he said.

The claim has been launched in PNG’s National Court, which has unlimited jurisdiction.

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