Cambior lawsuit (re Guyana)

Polluted riverIn August 1995, the tailings dam at the Omai Mine in Guyana failed, spilling mine tailings containing cyanide, heavy metals and other pollutants into the Essequibo River.  About 23,000 people live in the region surrounding the river, and they rely on the river for drinking water, bathing and fishing.  A public interest group filed a class action lawsuit against Cambior in 1997 in Québec Superior Court seeking damages on behalf of the Guyanese victims of the spill.  The Omai Mine is wholly owned by Omai Gold Mines Limited (OGML).  At the time of the spill, Cambior owned 65% of this company and the balance was owned by Golden Star Resources and the Government of Guyana.  In 2002, Cambior acquired Golden Star’s interest in OGML, thereby obtaining a 95% ownership interest in the company. 

The Québec Superior Court dismissed the case in August 1998, on the grounds that the courts in Guyana were in a better position to hear the case.  A lawsuit against Cambior was filed in Guyana, but it was dismissed by the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Guyana in 2002.  A new suit was filed against Cambior in 2003 in Guyana again seeking damages for the effects of the 1995 spill.  In October 2006, the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Guyana ordered the dismissal of the 2003 action and ordered the plaintiffs to pay the defendants’ legal costs.  Cambior was acquired by Iamgold in November 2006.

 

- “Guyana high court dismisses $2B Omai Gold Mines tailings accident suit”, Dorothy Kosich, Mineweb.com, 1 Nov 2006

- “Cambior in fighting mode”, Nicole Mordant, Mineweb.com, 27 May 2003

- [DOC] “Global Mining Update: Quebec Court Decides to Dismiss Proceedings, Tailings Dam Collapse to be Litgated in Guyana”, Stikeman Elliott, Apr 1999

- “Coming Home to Roost”, Philip Preville, Montreal Mirror, 27 Mar 1997

- “Cyanide From Mine Threatens Guyana River”, Phil Davison, Independent [UK], 23 Aug 1995

 

Cambior:

- “Cambior Inc: Omai Lawsuit Struck and Dismissed”, 31 Oct 2006

- “Cambior: Dismissal of OMAI-Related Class Action Suit in Guyana”, 22 Feb 2002

- “Cambior Secures Dismissal of Omai-Related Class Action”, 17 Aug 1998

 

Court papers filed in Guyana by plaintiffs:

- May 2003 Writ

- 1999 Statement of Claim

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Author: Gwynne Skinner, Robert McCorquodale, Olivier De Schutter & Andie Lambe

"第三大支柱: 讓跨國公司侵犯人權行為的受害者獲得司法救濟", 2013年2月

“獲得司法救濟項目”(A2JR)設立的目的是確認並分析美國、加拿大和歐洲在該領域存在的阻礙…在開發該報告過程中我們進行了詳盡的現狀分析,結論顯示國家普遍沒有承擔為企業境外侵權行為的受害者提供有效司法救濟的義務。受害者在尋求救濟時仍然面臨著眾多的阻礙,有時還出現尋求救濟的途徑被完全堵死的情況。雖然相關國家在立法、法庭程序、人權保護和法律傳統方面存在著差異,但在所有司法制度下都存在著阻礙受害者尋求救助的情況。在一些案例中,這些阻礙被成功地克服,其原因往往是:律師採用了全新的訴訟方案;受害者有足夠的耐心;有著敏銳洞察力的法官願意受理此類維權訴訟。國家必須制定強硬、一致的政策,重申受害者的人權重於企業的經濟利益。企業侵權人權行為的受害者,無論侵權行為在何地發生,都有權獲得全面、有效的司法救濟。為實現上述目標,每一個國家都應該審視司法制度中的存在障礙,並考慮採取行動加以消除,特別是考慮本報告提出的相關建議...

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Author: Gwynne Skinner, Robert McCorquodale, Olivier De Schutter & Andie Lambe

"第三大支柱: 让跨国公司侵犯人权行为的受害者获得司法救济", 2013年2月

“获得司法救济项目”(A2JR)设立的目的是确认并分析美国、加拿大和欧洲在该领域存在的阻碍…在开发该报告过程中我们进行了详尽的现状分析,结论显示国家普遍没有承担为企业境外侵权行为的受害者提供有效司法救济的义务。受害者在寻求救济时仍然面临着众多的阻碍,有时还出现寻求救济的途径被完全堵死的情况。虽然相关国家在立法、法庭程序、人权保护和法律传统方面存在着差异,但在所有司法制度下都存在着阻碍受害者寻求救助的情况。在一些案例中,这些阻碍被成功地克服,其原因往往是:律师采用了全新的诉讼方案;受害者有足够的耐心;有着敏锐洞察力的法官愿意受理此类维权诉讼。国家必须制定强硬、一致的政策,重申受害者的人权重于企业的经济利益。企业侵权人权行为的受害者,无论侵权行为在何地发生,都有权获得全面、有效的司法救济。为实现上述目标,每一个国家都应该审视司法制度中的存在障碍,并考虑采取行动加以消除,特别是考虑本报告提出的相关建议...

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Article
15 August 2014

Lawsuit against Hudbay in Canada may open new avenue to claims for abuses committed abroad, says commentary

Author: Sebastian Rosemont, Foreign Policy in Focus (USA)

"Seeking Justice in Canada: Hitting Mining Companies Where They Live", 12 Aug 2014

...[T]he harsh reality is that Guatemalans have little to show for their efforts to secure their rights through their country’s court system...Facing dim prospects in Guatemala, these three cases have been brought as a joint suit against Hudbay Minerals [in Canada]...This is the first one to win a judge’s approval to move to the trial stage...There are several legal obstacles for bringing a case to Canada. The company defendants typically argue that Canadian courts lack jurisdiction...Or they might say that the case ought to be heard in the country where the alleged offence took place...Or they might claim that whatever happened was unpredictable...People in countries with weak judicial systems now have at least the possibility to seek justice in...Canada. If the verdict goes in favor of the plaintiffs, a new transnational understanding of rule of law will emerge...[Refers to Anvil Mining, Cambior, Copper Mesa, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel, Hudbay Minerals, Tahoe Resources]   

 

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Article
9 April 2014

Financial power: Behind the lack of remedy for corporations’ human rights abuses

Author: Audrey Gaughran of Amnesty International in Righting Finance

…Amnesty International has been working on…the right to effective remedy in cases of corporate-related human rights abuses...[We]…repeatedly found ourselves confronting the way companies exercised political power to the detriment of the right to remedy…[Corporate] influence on the right to remedy often began at a very early stage in the investment process – when companies influenced, behind the scenes, the laws and regulations that would govern their investments in developing economies…The need for foreign direct investment (FDI) can leave developing countries relatively powerless in their dealings with corporate interests...International financial institutions (IFIs) such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have played a key role in promoting investor-friendly regulatory environments in…particularly developing countries…IFIs prescriptions… have included reducing or removing regulations that protect the environment and human rights…

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Article
1 March 2014

[PDF] Injustice Incorporated: Corporate Abuses and the Human Right to Remedy

Author: Amnesty International

This book seeks to ground the debate on the human right to remedy in cases of corporate-related abuse in the lived experiences of victims…[It]… focuses on four emblematic cases and exposes how corporate political and financial power intertwined with specific legal obstacles to allow companies to evade accountability and deny, or severely curtail, remedy…The cases are…[the] 1984 Bhopal gas leak in India…[the] case of Omai gold in Guyana...[the] Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea…[and the] dumping of toxic waste in Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire…[Trafigura responded that] it is simply wrong to suggest that the issues have not had the right judicial scrutiny...[Union Carbide responded that] [a]ll of the victims’ claims…were resolved a quarter-century ago by a comprehensive settlement…[Includes full responses from Arcelor Mittal, Dow Chemical, Tata Group, Trafigura Beheer, Union Carbide (part of Dow)] [Also refers to BHP Billiton, BP, Shell, Vedanta Resources]

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Lawsuit
18 February 2014

Cambior lawsuit (re Guyana)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

In August 1995, the tailings dam at the Omai Mine in Guyana failed, spilling mine tailings containing cyanide, heavy metals and other pollutants into the Essequibo River.  About 23,000 people live in the region surrounding the river, and they rely on the river for drinking water, bathing and fishing.  A public interest group filed a class action lawsuit against Cambior in 1997 in Québec Superior Court seeking damages on behalf of the Guyanese victims of the spill.  The Omai Mine is wholly owned by Omai Gold Mines Limited (OGML).  At the time of the spill, Cambior owned 65% of this company and the balance was owned by Golden Star Resources and the Government of Guyana.  In 2002, Cambior acquired Golden Star’s interest in OGML, thereby obtaining a 95% ownership interest in the company.  The Québec Superior Court dismissed the case in August 1998, on the grounds that the courts in Guyana were in a better position to hear the case.  A lawsuit against Cambior was filed in Guyana, but it was dismissed by the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Guyana in 2002.  A new suit was filed against Cambior in 2003 in Guyana again seeking damages for the effects of the 1995 spill.  In October 2006, the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Guyana ordered the dismissal of the 2003 action and ordered the plaintiffs to pay the defendants’ legal costs.  Cambior was acquired by Iamgold in November 2006.

 

- “Guyana high court dismisses $2B Omai Gold Mines tailings accident suit”, Dorothy Kosich, Mineweb.com, 1 Nov 2006

- “Cambior in fighting mode”, Nicole Mordant, Mineweb.com, 27 May 2003

- [DOC] “Global Mining Update: Quebec Court Decides to Dismiss Proceedings, Tailings Dam Collapse to be Litgated in Guyana”, Stikeman Elliott, Apr 1999

- “Coming Home to Roost”, Philip Preville, Montreal Mirror, 27 Mar 1997

- “Cyanide From Mine Threatens Guyana River”, Phil Davison, Independent [UK], 23 Aug 1995

 

- Cambior: “Cambior Inc: Omai Lawsuit Struck and Dismissed”, 31 Oct 2006

- Cambior: “Cambior: Dismissal of OMAI-Related Class Action Suit in Guyana”, 22 Feb 2002

- Cambior: “Cambior Secures Dismissal of Omai-Related Class Action”, 17 Aug 1998

 

- Court papers filed in Guyana by plaintiffs:

            May 2003 Writ

            1999 Statement of Claim

Article
1 December 2013

[PDF] The Third Pillar: Access to Judicial Remedies for Human Rights Violations by Transnational Business

Author: Gwynne Skinner, Robert McCorquodale, Olivier De Schutter & Andie Lambe

The Access to Judicial Remedy (A2JR) Project set out to identify and analyze the barriers in the United States, Canada, and Europe…The detailed mapping exercise undertaken in the development of this Report shows that States are generally not fulfilling their obligation to ensure access to effective judicial remedies to victims of human rights violations by businesses operating outside their territory. Victims continue to face barriers that at times can completely block their access to an effective remedy…These barriers have been overcome in only some instances…Victims of human rights violations by business, wherever the violations occur, are entitled to full and effective access to judicial remedies. In order to provide this, each State should examine the barriers in their jurisdiction and consider the range of actions they can take to alleviate them, and in particular, the recommendations contained in this Report…[Refers to Alstom, Amesys (part of Bull), Anvil Mining (part of China Minmetals), Barrick Gold, Bull, Cambior, Cape PLC, Chevron, Chiquita, Daimler, DLH (Dalhoff Larsen & Horneman), Drummond, ExxonMobil, HudBay Minerals, Monterrico Metals (part of Zijin), Shell, Talisman, Texaco (part of Chevron), Thor Chemicals, Unocal (part of Chevron), Veolia Environnement (formerly Vivendi), Veolia Transport (part of Veolia Environnement), Walmart, Zijin]

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Article
14 October 2013

The first step towards corporate accountability for actions abroad?

Author: Sonya Nigam, University of Ottawa, in Canadian Lawyer

Increasingly, Canadian extractive companies and their subsidiaries have been the subject of allegations of human rights violations associated with their overseas activities, particularly when operating in developing countries. For years, liability before Canadian courts has been avoided. However, the recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court in Choc v. Hudbay Minerals Inc. may be the first step towards recognition that Canadian companies should be accountable for their behaviour outside Canada…[Also refers to Cambior, Green Park]

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Article
3 March 2013

Claims of Canadian companies exploiting mines in Guyana

Author: CMC and Antigua Observer

The…Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA)…claimed that...in the Canadian legal system, “…it is nearly impossible for foreign citizens to bring lawsuits involving egregious environmental and human rights violations in Canadian courts"…[citing] a 1997 lawsuit filed by Guyanese villagers against Cambior Corporation regarding [its] alleged negligence surrounding a dam break disaster along the Omai River…[and that] “this catastrophe resulted in mass contamination and fatalities.”…COHA said child labour is also a “widespread problem” within the Guyanese mining industry. Most recently, it said an eight-year-old child was found labouring in a gold mine…near the Venezuelan border…[and that]…indigenous groups lost a “crucial court case” filed against mining companies, when Guyanese High Court decided that it does not have the right to expel miners from their lands…

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Article
22 June 2011

Bringing Canadian mining to justice

Author: Karyn Keenan, program officer at Halifax Initiative Coalition, in Pambazuka

Canadian mining companies seem to enjoy impunity virtually everywhere that they operate overseas...Canada has abdicated its governance responsibility regarding the overseas activities of the mining sector, refusing to regulate either the companies or the government agencies that support them, or to take legislative action to ensure that non-nationals...are able to seek redress in Canada...The issue of access to remedy for the victims of corporate abuse requires urgent attention. An obvious priority is to strengthen judicial institutions in the countries where abuse takes place. However, it’s also critical that the judiciary in multinationals’ ‘home’ countries, such as Canada, hear cases involving...their companies in foreign countries, especially when the victims lack other viable options. [Refers to Cambior lawsuit re Guyana, Anvil Mining lawsuit re Dem. Rep. of Congo, Copper Mesa lawsuit re Ecuador, HudBay Minerals lawsuits re Guatemala. Also refers to Barrick Gold, TSX (part of TMX Group).]

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