Canadian court rejects Anvil bid to move Congo case

Thu Apr 28, 2011 2:43pm EDT

* Court rejects efforts to block case vs miner

* Anvil accused of involvement in Congo killing in 2004

KINSHASA, April 28 (Reuters) - A Canadian court rejected on Thursday an attempt to block a case against Toronto-listed Anvil Mining AVM.AX AVM.TO over its alleged involvement in a massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2004.

Congo-focused Anvil, which has been producing copper in the southern Congolese province of Katanga since 2002, is accused of providing logistical support to the Congolese army during a massacre in which 70 people were killed.

The miner, with offices in both Australia and Quebec, has denied the charge.

Last year, a civil class action was filed on behalf of the victims by the Canadian Association Against Impunity.

The Superior Court of Quebec rejected Anvil's request that the case be heard either in Australia or Congo, and allowed proceedings to move to the next stage, court documents seen by Reuters showed.

"Everything indicates that if the court were to refuse to accept the application [for a class action] there would be no other possibility for the victims' civil claim to be heard," Judge Benoit Emery said in the court documents.

The company, which is due to begin production at its newest copper mine in Katanga later this year, argued that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.

A spokesman for Anvil was not immediately available for comment on the court's decision.

Rights groups welcomed the decision, although Andie Lamb of Global Witness said it was still possible that the class action would not reach court.

"This is the first hurdle we've got over, we're very excited about it, but the court must still decide if there are grounds for a class action," she said, adding that a decision is likely in June.

Anvil Mining had already been found not guilty in 2007 by a Congolese military court over its role in the killings, which took place in the village of Kilwa, as Congolese armed forces attempted to put down a rebellion.

Congo is one of the most resource rich countries in the world but remains unstable after years of conflict. Its armed forces are notoriously ill disciplined and have frequently been implicated in human rights abuses. (Reporting by Jonny Hogg; Editing by Bate Felix)

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