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(Reuters) - The Ontario Court of Appeal on Friday overturned a ruling that would have forced Brazilian mining giant Vale SA to compensate property owners in Port Colborne, Ontario, for decades of pollution from a nickel refinery in the city.
In a unanimous ruling, the court overturned a 2010 Superior Court of Justice decision awarding C$36 million ($34.6 million) to plaintiffs in a class action suit.
The suit, brought by the residents of the small city on the north shore of Lake Erie, 35 kilometers (22 miles) west of Buffalo, New York, sought compensation for lowered property values due to pollution from the Inco Ltd refinery that operated there for 66 years before being closed in 1984.
Vale bought Inco in 2006.
In its ruling, the court noted that the nickel pollution did no harm to the properties surrounding the refinery and was not a health threat.
"The claimants failed to establish actual, substantial, physical damage to their properties as a result of the nickel particles becoming part of the soil," the ruling said.
It also said that the refinery was operating in a safe manner in a heavily industrialized part of the city and had complied with all laws.
The court also awarded Vale C$100,000 to cover the cost of the trial.
The case was Smith v. Inco Limited, Docket C52491
Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Peter Galloway