Court OKs genocide lawsuit against mining company

October 25, 2011 - 3:30 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that a London-based mining company can be sued in the United States on allegations it aided the government of Papua New Guinea in genocide and war crimes.

The lawsuit was filed by residents of the island of Bougainville, who accuse Rio Tinto LLC of aiding Papua New Guinea. The decade-long civil war began after islanders sabotaged a gold and copper mine they claimed was fouling the environment.

They sued Rio Tinto in 2002 in federal court in Los Angeles under an obscure U.S. law called the Alien Tort Statute of 1789. It allows foreign nationals to sue over conduct that allegedly violates international law or treaties.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling Tuesday reverses a lower court decision to toss the lawsuit.