Court rules Canadian aboriginal lawsuit vs Rio Tinto can go ahead

Mon Sep 22, 2014 5:58pm EDT
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VANCOUVER, Sept 22 (Reuters) - A Quebec court has ruled that a C$900 million ($815 million) lawsuit by two Canadian aboriginal communities against a subsidiary of Rio Tinto can proceed.

The Innu communities of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekush-Lac John asked the court last March for an injunction against Rio's Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) unit in Quebec and Labrador to stop all mining, as well as an estimated C$900 million in damages.

They said at the time that more than a half century of iron ore mining has disrupted their traditional way of life.

IOC tried to have the case dismissed on grounds that the aboriginal communities should be suing the government not the company, the Innu said in a statement on Monday. The court made its ruling on Sept. 19.

Spokesmen for IOC and Rio Tinto were not immediately available for comment on Monday.

Rio, one of the world's largest mining companies, owns a 59 percent stake in IOC, Canada's largest iron ore producer. Rio tried to sell IOC last year, but was not able to find a buyer.

In recent years, Canada's aboriginal activists have stepped up demands for more control over mining and energy projects, and a greater share of benefits from resource development.

The Innu will also contest in court IOC's new Wabush 3 open pit mine, which it plans to build in Labrador City should the company and Rio "persist in violating the constitutional rights of the Innu," the groups said. (1 US dollar = 1.1037 Canadian dollar) (Reporting by Nicole Mordant. Editing by Andre Grenon)