(en) Canadian Mining Company Seeks Gag Order

Lyn Gerry (redlyn@loop.com)
Fri, 5 Sep 1997 07:32:18 +0000


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------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Fri, 05 Sep 1997 08:08:17 -0400 To: progressive-radio@tango.rahul.net From: PIRA Communications <pira@axess.com> Subject: Canadian Mining Company Seeks Gag Order

3 SEPTEMBER 1997 IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CANADIAN MINING COMPANY SEEKS GAG ORDER Environmentalists seek funding to fight injunction application

A Canadian mining company that is the target of a $69 million class action lawsuit is seeking a gag order to prevent its critics from speaking with financial institutions or security dealers, said Recherches Internationale= s Qu=E9bec (RIQ) spokesperson Dermod Travis today.

Montr=E9al-based Cambior Inc. is the majority owner of Guyana's Omai Gold = Mine Ltd. On 19 August 1995, the mine's tailings dam breached resulting in the escape of 3.2 billion litres of cyanide-laced effluent into the heart of Guyana's rainforest. The area was immediately declared "an ecological disaster zone." Cambior's CEO Louis Gignac later apologized for the spill'= s "major environmental impact."

RIQ is issuing an urgent appeal to environmentalists, civil liberty groups and social activists to help support its efforts to fight the injunction a= nd pursue the class action litigation. Funds are urgently needed to cover cou= rt costs and disbursements related to the injunction.

Cambior filed for a permanent and interlocutory injunction on the second anniversary of the disaster. The injunction application seeks to prevent RIQ, Dermod Travis or "any other individual or corporation" from speaking directly or indirectly with any bank, financial institution or security dealer "in an attempt to persuade any or all of them not to conduct busine= ss with Cambior." If successful, the injunction will effectively prevent any activist from discussing this case or Cambior's activities with the media.=

The application was in response to a three page letter sent to ten North American banks and five Canadian investment dealers (attached). Observers view Cambior's injunction application, as a U.S. style SLAPP suit (Strateg= ic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).

Cambior is already facing a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 23 000 Guyanese who reside within the ecological disaster zone. The suit seeks economic damages, an environmental clean-up of the region and cessation of on-going discharges by the Omai mine.

"In Guyana, Cambior acted as though its had a blank cheque, now it wants t= he Qu=E9bec court to give it a worldwide blank cheque," said Travis. "If Camb= ior can communicate with its bankers, shareholders and the media, then concern= ed citizens also have a right to communicate with these same groups to expres= s their valid concerns."

Two years following the disaster, Cambior has paid out less than $US75 000 to Guyanese residents for the economic and environmental damages resulting from the Omai spill.

- 30 -

For more information: Dermod Travis (514) 393-3883

Dear Sir:

Montr=E9al-based Cambior Inc. is currently seeking $US500 million in financing to develop a copper mine at La Granja, Peru. In the event your institution is approached for all or part of this financing, we would ask that you seriously consider your possible participation in this or any Cambior project until such time as the mining company is prepared to addre= ss and resolve serious concerns with its environmental record and human right= s practices. Cambior has demonstrated a serious disregard for the ecosystems in which = it operates. The company has been cited for twelve environmental violations a= t its Valdez Creek Gold Mine, in Alaska; the Environmental Impact Statement for its proposed copper project at Carlota, Arizona received the U.S. EPA'= s lowest possible rating; and Cambior has also been prosecuted under Qu=E9be= c's environmental protection laws. However, the environmental disaster at Cambior's Omai Gold Mines Ltd. (OGML) in Guyana, clearly demonstrates the company's attitude to its socia= l and environmental responsibilities. On 19 August 1995, the tailings dam at OGML breached releasing 3.2 billion litres of cyanide-laced mining effluen= t into the freshwater Essequibo River. Immediately following the disaster, the Government of Guyana established = a National Commission of Inquiry into the causes of the ecological catastrop= he. Despite Cambior's concerted efforts to limit the duration and scope of th= is investigation, the sub-committee established specifically to investigate t= he tailings dam was able to conclude that "It is clear that the Omai tailings dam as designed and constructed was bound to fail . . . We are at a loss t= o explain why the design and construction of these critical elements of the dam, whose importance to its safety were evidently recognized and understood, were executed so inadequately." According to the United Nations Water Resources Unit, the tailings dam wa= s built "not by specialized contractors, but by the Omai Gold Mine itself." Following "the worst industrial disaster to hit Guyana," environmentalist= s and social activists, from around the world, reacted swiftly to support th= e 23 000 victims living within the "environmental disaster zone" as defined = by Guyana's President Cheddi Jagen. Despite repeated attempts to discuss outstanding issues with Cambior and negotiate a fair settlement, Recherches Internationales Qu=E9bec (RIQ) has filed a Motion for Authorization to Institute a Class Action Lawsuit in Qu=E9bec Superior Court for $69 million in personal damages, as well as th= e remediation of all environmental damages resulting from the Omai disaster.= Any settlement will be used to create a sustainable economic development fund for the Essequibo region's 23 000 victims and to establish independen= t health monitoring of the mine's impact on local residents. For your information, in spite of the Omai disaster's far-reaching impact= , Cambior to date has paid out only $CAN90 000 to area residents. Secondly, in regards to Cambior's approach to human rights issues, we wou= ld draw your specific attention not only to Cambior's response and attitude t= o the Omai disaster, but also to its proposed mining operations in Suriname and their decision to appoint Carol Mathieu as the company's Director of International Security. Mr. Mathieu was Canada's Airborne Commander in Somalia. Under Mr. Mathieu= 's command one Somali was tortured to death and another severely injured. Mr. Mathieu has been quoted in the Toronto Star as ordering his men, six days prior to these tragedies, to "kill the bastards and we'll cover for you." We believe it is imperative that Cambior not only institute a responsible management approach to environmental concerns at its operations around the world, but also to reach a fair and just settlement with the victims of th= e Omai disaster. Accordingly, we would ask that you reflect seriously on any decision to support Cambior's efforts to finance the La Granja project or similar developments. Environmentalists and social activists will seriously consider a full retail boycott of any financial institution that provides financing to thi= s project until such time as Cambior has settled all outstanding issues arising from the Omai disaster and has established sound environmental and human rights management practices for all of its operations. We would underline that our first desire is to reach a negotiated settlement with Cambior; however, equally we are fully prepared to litigat= e and to continue our campaign until such time as Cambior has joined us at t= he negotiating table. Our goal is not to stop Cambior's mining operations but to independently ensure that they operate in a manner that is respectful o= f the local environment and residents. We hope you share with us our concern for sound environmental management and responsible corporate practices as they relate to basic human rights issues and corporate codes of conduct and will act accordingly in the even= t you are approached by Cambior for financing of the La Granja project. Cambior must accept its environmental and corporate responsibilities, bot= h to its shareholders and to its neighbours.

P.S.: R.I.Q. has a complete background report on the Omai disaster and Cambior's environmental record. This report can be obtained from R.I.Q. up= on request.

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