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Pollution lawsuit against Barrick reinstated

by SANDY SHOREAssociated Press
September 30th, 2009

A federal appeals court has reinstated a nearly four-year-old lawsuit accusing a subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corp. of polluting water and land for decades in a province of the Philippines.

In a ruling handed down Tuesday, the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals said a federal judge improperly removed the lawsuit from state court and dismissed it.

Attorney Edward Han, who represents Barrick and its subsidiary, Placer Dome Inc., declined comment Wednesday.

Toronto-based Barrick, the world's largest gold producer, has said it will defend itself against the allegations and that no amounts have been accrued for any potential loss.

The government of Marinduque filed the lawsuit in October 2005 in Nevada state court, alleging Placer Dome damaged land and water for more than 30 years by dumping waste into a traditional fishing area, and freshwater rivers and streams.

It also accused the mining company of causing two environmental disasters, in 1993 and 1996, and contaminating food and water sources, which caused blood diseases and other ailments for residents.

Placer Dome ceased operations in Marinduque in 1997 but the province claimed the company did nothing to clean up the contamination and evaded its responsibilities.

Marinduque said Thursday it will seek damages to clean up polluted land and water, compensation for economic losses and payment related to the health issues of residents.

Marinduque also contended that former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos eased some environmental protections for Placer Dome in exchange for a personal stake in the mining operations.

Its attorneys have asked for a jury trial with damages to be determined in court.

The suit was removed to U.S. District Court at the request of Placer Dome. Then-U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval dismissed the case in June 2007, citing an improper choice of forum or court.

The appeals court has ordered the case back to state court for consideration.

Barrick Gold purchased an 81 percent stake in Placer Dome in 2006 and was added to the lawsuit.

Shares of Barrick were up 30 cents to $37.83 in afternoon trading.

 

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