Rio Tinto reaches agreement to assess Bougainville copper mine impact

FILE PHOTO: The Panguna mine is seen in Bougainville, Paua New Guinea, in this Planet Labs satellite photo received by Reuters September 26, 2017. Trevor Hammond/Planet Labs/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) -Rio Tinto said on Wednesday it has reached an agreement with stakeholders of the Bougainville community to look into potential environmental damage and human rights breaches at a copper mine it ran decades ago.

Community and human rights groups have been pushing the miner to review issues around water, land and health arising from the Panguna copper mine that Rio ran for nearly 20 years till 1989.

Operations ceased that year after a civil war broke out and Rio Tinto has not had access to the mine since, the company said on Wednesday.

An independent impact report funded largely by the global miner will be overseen by a joint committee of the company and various stakeholders, with the parties discussing recommendations once the assessment is done, Rio said.

“We take this seriously and are committed to identifying and assessing any involvement we may have had in adverse impacts, in line with our external human rights and environmental commitments and internal policies and standards,” said Rio Tinto Chief Executive Officer Jakob Stausholm.

The miner in 2016 transferred its 53.8% stake in Bougainville Copper Ltd, the company that ran the mine, to the Autonomous Bougainville government and the Papua New Guinea government for no amount.

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