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Rio Tinto Sued Over Mine Pollution 

Residents of the Papua New Guinean island of Bougainville have launched a class action against mining giant Rio Tinto over alleged environmental and social harm caused by its now-closed Panguna copper mine. The class action will seek billions of dollars in damages from Rio and Bougainville Copper on behalf of over 3000 local residents of the island, lawyers leading the lawsuit said in a statement. The Panguna Copper mine closed in 1989 at the outbreak of civil war. The lawsuit alleges that Rio and Bougainville Copper failed to safely dispose of waste from the mine, and that the tailings have since polluted waterways and damaged the local environment. In a letter to Rio Tinto CEO Jakob Stausholm, members of the class action said “toxic chemicals” from the tailings “pollute once pristine forests and rivers, endangering biodiversity”. The letter claimed “entire villages” had been destroyed or forced to relocate, and pollution had undermined “our people’s access to reliable sources of food and fresh water and to the natural habitat. The letter asks Rio Tinto to clean up the mine area and river valley, and demands “adequate compensation for the 50 years during which the lives of our people have been harmed by the consequences of the mine”. 

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