Barrick Gold lawsuit (re Western Shoshone tribes, USA)

Shoshone - photo by Andrew J RussellOn 20 November 2008, several US Western Shoshone tribes and non-profit organizations filed a lawsuit in Nevada federal court against the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) seeking a preliminary injunction to stop Barrick Gold from proceeding with the largest open-pit cyanide heap leach gold mine in the US – the Cortez Hills Expansion Project.  The Project is located on Mt. Tenabo, Nevada, a mountain with deep cultural and religious significance for the Western Shoshone.  The plaintiffs asked the court to revoke the mining permit issued to Barrick Gold by BLM on 12 November 2008.  The initial claim was filed exclusively against BLM, but Barrick Gold voluntarily joined the litigation as defendant-intervener.

The plaintiffs argue that the Project will cause permanent and irreparable harm to the environment, Mt. Tenabo and the Western Shoshone.  They allege that the Project will substantially harm their right to engage in prayer and religious activities in the area.  With regard to environmental damage, plaintiffs claim that the Project will dump toxic mine waste onto their land, and they further claim that the amount of groundwater needed by the mine will cause a loss of surface waters and springs in the area.

The district judge rejected plaintiffs’ application for a preliminary injunction on 26 January 2009.  The judge acknowledged that the Project will desecrate the mountain and decrease the tribal members’ spiritual fulfillment from their religion.  However, the judge found that the significant financial costs of the injunction outweighed these religious factors.  Following this ruling, Barrick began project construction.  

On 6 February 2009 the plaintiffs filed an appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Plaintiffs requested the appeals court to issue a preliminary injunction staying further ground disturbance and construction of the Project.  Furthermore, the plaintiffs explained that they did not seek to disturb those parts of the Project that would not affect Mt. Tenabo, allowing Barrick to continue with the planned expansion approximately 8 miles away from the mountain.  On 3 December 2009 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a preliminary injunction to halt the expansion of the Cortez Gold Mine.  The judge granted the injunction on the basis that the plaintiffs had shown a likelihood of success on their claims regarding environmental violations under the National Environmental Policy Act.  In January 2010, Barrick filed a motion with the court proposing an amended injunction in order to allow Barrick to continue with limited operation of the Project.  In February 2010, the plaintiffs filed a motion with the district court requesting that it issue a full injunction to halt the Project.  In June 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision affirming the lower court's dismissal of the case on two claims, and remanding the case to the lower court for further proceedings on the third claim regarding alleged violations under the National Environmental Policy Act.  In October 2011 lawyers for Barrick Gold and lawyers for the Bureau of Land Management asked the judge presiding of the case to lift the partial injunction.  The court agreed to lift the injunction in January 2012 finding that Barrick Gold had corrected the deficiencies in its enviornmental assessment.  The lawyers for tribes are considering an appeal.

- "NV tribes, enviros lose suit against big gold mine", AP, 6 Jan 2012
- "Tribe battles BLM over Nev. gold mine in US court", Scott Sonner, Associated Press, 6 Oct 2011
- "Tribe Loses Court Battle to Stop Gold Mine on Mount Tenabo", Environmental News Service, 22 Jun 2010
- "Groups file motion for mine shutdown", Adella Harding, Elko Daily Free Press, 6 Feb 2010
- "Barrick proposes Cortez curbs", Brenda Bouw, Globe and Mail [Canada], 27 Jan 2010
- "Nevada Tribes Win Halt to Barrick Gold Mine Expansion", Lisa J. Wolf, Environmental News Service, 3 Dec 2009
- "Native Americans Ask Court to Stop Gold Mine on Sacred Mountain", Environmental News Service, 6 Jun 2009
- "Nevada federal judge refuses to grant injunction to halt Cortez Hills gold project", Mineweb, 27 Jan 2009
- "Shoshone Indians Sue to Stop Barrick's Nevada Gold Mine", Lisa J. Wolf, Environmental News Service, 25 Nov 2008

- Barrick Gold: Indigenous Community Relations and the Western Shoshone
- Western Shoshone Defense Project: Legal Struggles [contains certain legal documents]
- Great Basin Resource Watch: Save spiritual site Mt. Tenabo

South Fork Band, et al. v. US Dept. of Interior, et al.:
- [PDF] Opinion of US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 18 Jun 2010
- [PDF] Opinion [granting preliminary injunction], 3 Dec 2009
- [PDF] Reply Brief of South Fork Band Council & other appellants, 17 Apr 2009
- [PDF] Opening Brief of South Fork Band Council & other appellants, 6 Mar 2009
- [PDF] Order [denying plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction], 3 Feb 2009
- [audio] Oral Arguments before Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals  WMA Format, MP3 Format

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Article
17 March 2014

9th Circ. Backs Barrick Mine Project Over Tribal Opposition

Author: Sean McLernon, Law 360 (USA)

The Ninth Circuit...refused to block a major Barrick Gold Corp. mining project in Nevada, rejecting a bid from Indian tribes claiming that work shouldn't move forward because the project area includes a sacred religious site.  The U.S. Department of the Interior did not act arbitrarily or capriciously when it approved the project because the tribes did not provide enough evidence that the area was used for religious ceremonies, according to the ruling. “The tribes point to comments from members of the tribes and tribal organizations regarding religious uses of the project area,” the decision says. “The tribes’ references, however, are personal in their description of practices and general in terms of location. They do not describe established practices.” Barrick's Cortez Hills gold mining project has been under regulatory and judicial review since 2005...Three tribes and an advocacy group contended in a November 2008 suit that the mining project violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws, and the BLM was ordered to conduct a new environmental impact statement after the government's first analysis was deemed inadequate in certain areas by the Ninth Circuit.

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Article
6 January 2012

NV tribes, enviros lose suit against big gold mine

Author: AP

A federal judge in Reno has ruled against environmentalists and tribal leaders who say the U.S. government is breaking the law by failing to protect water resources from damage caused by the biggest gold mine in Nevada. Judge Larry Hicks ruled in favor of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and...Barrick Gold Corp. over the latest challenge against Barrick's Cortez Hills' operations...The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier had sided with parts of a lawsuit filed by the Great Basin Resource Watch, the Western Shoshone Defense Project and others. But Hicks said...the BLM has corrected any errors in an earlier environmental assessment and now is in compliance with all U.S. laws. A lawyer for the environmentalists says they're considering an appeal.

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Article
6 October 2011

Tribe battles BLM over Nev. gold mine in US court

Author: Scott Sonner, Associated Press

Lawyers for environmentalists and several Nevada tribes urged a federal judge...to keep in place restrictions from a 2009 court order that blocks the expansion of a gold mine at the base of a mountain that some Western Shoshone consider sacred...Lawyers for Barrick Gold, as well as Justice Department attorneys representing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management [BLM], asked Judge Larry Hicks...to lift a partial injunction and clear the way for the digging of the 2,000-foot pit. The BLM has corrected deficiencies in its formal analysis of potential environmental impacts, the attorneys told Hicks...But lawyers for the tribes and the Reno-based Great Basin Resource Watch said the mining plans offer no specific protections for the environment, only a detailed schedule of monitoring intended to detect any potential pollution on groundwater supplies...[A] lawyer for Barrick...accused the opponents of trying to stall the project to death.

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Article
18 January 2011

Court-ordered review of Battle Mountain mine completed

Author: Associated Press

Federal land managers say they have completed the additional environmental assessments a U.S. appeals court ordered a year ago in a legal dispute over a Nevada gold mine on a mountain some tribes consider sacred...[O]fficials said they completed the review of the document last week and it is subject to public comment for the next 30 days...The Western Shoshone Defense Project, Great Basin Resource Watch and the Te-Moak and Timbisha tribes of Western Shoshone filed a lawsuit in 2008 to try to block the project.

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Article
22 June 2010

Tribe Loses Court Battle to Stop Gold Mine on Mount Tenabo

Author: Environment News Service

A three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit…upheld a district court's grant of summary judgment against the plaintiff Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone of Nevada and its co-plaintiffs, the Western Shoshone Defense Project, and Great Basin Mine Watch…The dispute centers on the intention of Barrick Gold…to expand its Cortez Gold Mine located in Nevada's Lander and Eureka counties. In November 2008, the plaintiffs challenged the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's approval of the Cortez Hills mine expansion…The expansion threatens Mount Tenabo, an important sacred mountain for the Western Shoshone people, the appeals court recognized in its ruling.

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Article
14 April 2010

Barrick Fends Off Bid for Temporary Mine Closing [USA]

Author: Joe Schneider, Bloomberg

Barrick Gold…fended off an effort by American Indian tribes to stop production at a Nevada mine with a court order. U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks…denied the tribes’ request to halt production at Barrick’s Cortez Hills deposit until a trial in an environmental lawsuit. The company can continue to mine, with limited restrictions it proposed to follow an appeals court’s directions…“The court’s order is a great relief to all of us at Barrick, especially to the many people who are directly employed at Cortez Hills,” Greg Lang, president of Barrick’s North American operations, said in a statement…

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Article
6 February 2010

Group files motion for mine shutdown [USA]

Author: Adella Harding, Elko Daily Free Press

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit over the Cortez Hills Project filed a motion Friday asking the U.S. District Court in Reno to issue a full injunction against the operation…The plaintiffs, including Western Shoshone tribes and the Western Shoshone Defense Project, believe the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco’s opinion calls for the Reno court to temporarily halt the project in Lander County, and the motion is in answer to a request Barrick Cortez Inc. filed a couple of weeks ago asking the U.S. District Court to consider a partial injunction instead of a full one.

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Article
27 January 2010

Barrick proposes Cortez curbs

Author: Brenda Bouw, Globe and Mail

On the eve of first production at its Cortez gold mine in Nevada, Barrick Gold Corp. is proposing ways to curb its environmental impact…Barrick…filed a motion in a Nevada court this week hoping to influence an upcoming ruling on the mine…Local native and environmental groups oppose the mine and sought an injunction, which was turned down by a Nevada district court last year. The groups appealed and a California court ruling called for a closer look at the mine's environmental footprint…"It's a political fight, it's a environmental fight, it's a spiritual fight," said Larson Bill, of the Western Shoshone Defense Project, one of the groups opposing the mine. Barrick said the court needs to consider the impact on jobs and the local economy if the mine is halted.

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Article
3 December 2009

Nevada Tribes Win Halt to Barrick Gold Mine Expansion

Author: Lisa J. Wolf, Environmental News Service

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today ordered that a preliminary injunction be granted…that halts the expansion of the Cortez gold mine in Nevada owned by Barrick Gold Corporation…The ruling reverses the decision of the U.S. District Court in Nevada, which had denied the motion for preliminary injunction filed by the South Fork Band Council of Western Shoshone, the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians, the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, the Western Shoshone Defense Project, and Great Basin Resource Watch in November 2008…Today the appellate court ruled that the tribes are likely to succeed on the merits on their claims that the [Bureau of Land Management] violated the National Environmental Policy Act…

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Article
24 November 2008

Shoshone Indians Sue to Stop Barrick's Nevada Gold Mine [USA]

Author: Lisa J. Wolf, Environmental News Service [USA]

Five tribal and public interest parties filed a lawsuit in Nevada Federal Court on Thursday, seeking an immediate injunction to stop one of the largest open pit cyanide heap leach gold mines in the United States - the Cortez Hills Expansion Project on Mt. Tenabo. Canadian Barrick Gold...plans to construct and operate the mine in an area that the lawsuit states is "located entirely within the territory of the Western Shoshone Nation."…"well-known for its spiritual and cultural importance”…[Greg Lang, president of Barrick's North America region said] "The Cortez Hills Project has been the object of criticism from activists who oppose mining and support failed claims of Native American title to much of Nevada's public lands...The company will vigorously and expeditiously oppose any challenge"...

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