JULY 1981 - VOLUME 2 - NUMBER 7
Alcoa Blocks Austrlaian Conservationsists in U.S. Court Test-Case
In support of two U.S. aluminum multinationals and the government of Australia, a district court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has dismissed a case brought by the Conservation Council of Western Australia against Alcoa and Reynolds Metals. The Conservation Council was seeking to prevent the companies from mining bauxite in the forested area of Western Australia which provides much of Perth's water supply.
The Australian government was represented in the case as a "friend of the court" in a direct attempt to limit any possible U.S. judicial intervention, stating in its brief that it "would regard such interference in resource development projects within its territorial boundaries as unacceptable and contrary to international law and would strongly resent it."
The attorney representing the Conservation Council, Victor Yannacone, Jr., argued that even though Alcoa and Reynolds are operating subsidiaries in Australia, the firms are based in the U.S. and their financial control rests ultimately in the U.S.-thus the U.S. government has the authority to restrain their activities if the activities prove detrimental to the environment and health of the people in Western Australia.
Stating that the U.S. Court did not have jurisdiction, Judge Maurice B. Cohill dismissed the case "with prejudice," indicating that he felt that the matter should not be reheard in the U.S. court system. A dismissal with prejudice "forces the plaintiff to appeal as its only action of escape," said Keith Kavanagh, the attorney working with Mr. Yannacone, "and we will probably appeal depending upon detailed conference with our client."