Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 17:51 UK

Norway blacklists miner Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto's Diavik Diamond Mine, Canada
Norway won't invest in Rio Tinto because of environmental concerns.

Norway is banning its sovereign wealth fund from investing in Anglo-Australian mining firm Rio Tinto because of environmental concerns.

The country's finance minister Kirsten Halvorsen said the 500m stake held by the country's "oil fund" would be sold.

She said the ban stems from concerns over Rio's investment in goldmine in Papua, Indonesia, which was responsible for river pollution.

Rio said that it had an exemplary record in environmental matters.

Rio Tinto owns 40% of Papua's Grasberg gold and copper mine, which is operated by US-based Freeport McMoRan.

"We do not want to contribute to serious environmental damage," Ms Halvorsen said.

"The Grasberg mine discharges very large amounts of tailings directly into a natural river system; approximately 230,000 tonnes or more per day."

A spokesman for Rio Tinto said that the current system for disposal of tailings - or mining waste - was the most appropriate given high rainfall and seismically unstable geology in the area.

Rio Tinto's chief executive, Brett Clayton, added to the BBC's World Business Report show that the company was "surprised and disappointed by the Norwegian decision.

"We believe that we have an excellent safety and environmental record and that this is an unfounded position and that we are an industry leader for many years in this area".

Ethical investor

Norway, a major oil and gas exporter, sets aside surplus revenue for future generations in its Government Pension Fund - Global, commonly known as its oil fund.

Papuanese students protest against Freeport McMoRan in Jakarta
The goldmine has also faced opposition from local people.

It invests under ethical guidelines and in the past has excluded companies producing nuclear arms and firms deemed to have abused workers' rights.

Environmental groups welcomed Norway's decision and called on other pension funds to follow suit.

US retailer Wal-Mart, British arms manufacturer BAE Systems and US defence firm Lockheed Martin have also been blacklisted by Norway.

It is Europe's biggest investor and holds around 1% of European listed shares.

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