The Nevada Supreme Court heard a state lawsuit that is nearly 10 years old, which was filed by the Philippines island province of Marinduque in southern Luzon.
The suit involves the contamination from Barrick Gold Corporation after a 1996 mining waster disaster that the island was hit with. Attorney James McCarthy, who represents Marinduque, told the court that Barrick Gold cannot be sued in a Philippines Court after the country’s highest court essentially junked their petition to sue. The motion was due in part to the idea that Barrick Gold Corp. said it does not do business on the island, or for that fact in the country.
Since the Toronto, Canada based gold company has substantial operations in Nevada, McCarthy told justices the province should be allowed to sue in the state against the mining company’s disaster.
McCarthy contends that they chased the company to the U.S. after they fled from the Philippines “Barrick must be held accountable for the mining disaster in the Philippines in which children died,” PLAN spokeswoman Laura Martin told the Associated Press.
Protesters call the Marinduque incident “the largest mining disaster in the history of the Philippines,” – damages for which the province is seeking compensation include dam failures in 1993 and 1996 that sent contaminated mine waste into a river, leaving two children dead, and the repercussions of decades of copper and gold mining on the island.
The lawsuit alleges the river leading up to Boac, Marinduque’s capital city, was polluted with tons of waste laced with arsenic, nickel, sulfate and lead among other chemicals.
Marinduque sued in Nevada in 2005 against Placer Dome, a British Columbia-based mining company. When Barrick acquired the company in 2006, it became part of the lawsuit. Barrick Gold spokesman Lou Schack said the company has no ties with what happened in the Philippines in the 1990s.
Steve Morris, who represents the company, said Barrick Gold, which operates in Nevada, is actually a company subsidiary. “He chose this forum, I believe, because he thought he could persuade the court, just by filing here, by trumpeting these … evil activities that occurred in the Philippines, that he could persuade the court out of sympathy to say, ‘You can try these claims here,’” Morris said.
In 2011, Clark County District Judge Valerie Adair dismissed the suit, saying it should have been filed in Canada or the Philippines rather than in Nevada. “She concluded that Canada has a greater interest in the issue,” Morris told the justices. A ruling was not immediately issued after Tuesday’s hearing.