Zijin unit settles case over Peru torture claims

Wed Jul 20, 2011 3:54pm GMT
 

LIMA, July 20 (Reuters) - The Monterrico unit of leading
Chinese miner Zijin has agreed to pay compensation to 33
Peruvians who say they were tortured in 2005 after protesting
against the company's plan to build a copper mine, lawyers for
the plaintiffs said on Wednesday.
    The Peruvian office of Zijin Mining Group (2899.HK: Quote)
(601899.SS: Quote), which struck a deal to buy the Rio Blanco copper
project from Monterrico in 2007 and then inherited the fallout
from the dispute, could not be reached for comment. A
Monterrico company official in Hong Kong declined comment.
    Monterrico did not admit liability under the settlement,
which was struck after the case was scheduled by a U.K. court
to go to trial, the lawyers said. The financial terms of the
settlement were not disclosed.
    "Our clients suffered deplorable mistreatment and were
denied justice in Peru," said Richard Meeran of the law firm
Leigh Day & Co in London. "This was an extremely costly
exercise for Monterrico and constitutes a salutary lesson for
multinationals operating in developing countries."
    Meeran's firm had previously won an injunction in 2009
around when it filed the lawsuit that froze 5 million pounds of
Monterrico's assets.
    The plaintiffs alleged the company's management incited
local police to attack and harshly treat protesters who
mobilized to stop construction of the mine, which they said
would cause pollution and hurt water supplies. Plaintiffs said
that some company employees participated in the mistreatment.
    One protester died after being detained in the 2005 clash
and photographs published later in the Peruvian media showed
protesters handcuffed with hoods placed over their heads. Some
were allegedly beaten, five said they were shot and two women
said they were sexually abused over 2-3 days in which they were
held.
    The history of the Rio Blanco project has been especially
bitter. In 2009, at least two workers died when 15-20 armed
people, apparently unrelated to the original protesters,
attacked the company's mining camp.
    Foreign companies and residents in poor towns often argue
about mining and oil projects in Peru, one of the world's
largest metals exporters.
    Human rights groups blame the government for failing to
mediate conflicts over resources and say President Alan Garcia
has often ignored environmental concerns in his push to lure
foreign investment.
    The $1.4 billion Rio Blanco copper-molybdenum project,
which is located in the northern district of Piura, would
produce some 200,000 tonnes of copper concentrate a year if
local approvals for its construction could be won.
  (Reporting by Terry Wade;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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