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,, 1 Nov 2006

- “Cambior in fighting mode”, Nicole Mordant,, 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 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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6 March 2011

[PDF] Tort litigation against multinationals (“MNCs”) for violation of human rights: an overview of the position outside the US

Author: Richard Meeran, Leigh Day & Co

Over the past decade, the US Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”)…has generally been viewed as the mechanism with the most promising potential for holding MNCs to account for human rights violations in developing countries. In recent years, US public interest lawyers have been at the forefront of developing ATS cases where MNCs are alleged to have been complicit with states in such violations…However a majority decision of the US Second Circuit Courts of Appeals in September 2010…held that customary international human rights law does not recognise the liability of corporations, and consequently that MNCs cannot be liable under “ATS”…This issue may well be finally resolved by the Supreme Court…Consequently, at this point in time it would seem timely to consider the state of play with regard to the continued development of more conventional tort law remedies. These too have yielded considerable success over the past decade or so. [refers to Anglo American, Anvil Mining, BHP Billiton, BP, Cambior, Cape plc, Chevron, Gencor, Merck, Minera Majaz (part of Monterrico Metals), Monterrico Metals (part of Zijin), Rio Blanco (part of Monterrico Metals), Rio Tinto, Securitas, Shell, Thor Chemicals, Unocal (part of Chevron), Zijin]

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2 November 2008

[PDF] Obstacles to Justice and Redress for Victims of Corporate Human Rights Abuse

Author: Univ. of Oxford Pro Bono Publico

This submission is prepared by Oxford Pro Bono Publico (OPBP) to inform the mandate of Professor John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the United Nations’ Secretary-General (SRSG) on business and human rights... The SRSG has been asked at various stages of his mandate to further explore the obstacles victims of corporate human rights abuse face in accessing justice and obtaining remediation through domestic legal systems... [This] project considers these obstacles in relation to...13 separate jurisdictions: Australia, Canada, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the European Union, France, Germany, India, Malaysia, the People’s Republic of China, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. [refers to lawsuits involving Cape, Union Carbide (part of Dow) (Bhopal), Total, Unocal (part of Chevron), BHP Billiton, Cambior, Anvil Mining (Kilwa)]

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28 October 2008

[PDF] Business & Human Rights Resource Centre launches world’s first online portal profiling human rights lawsuits against companies

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Today the non-profit Business & Human Rights Resource Centre launches a free online portal – the first to bring together and demystify lawsuits from across the world alleging human rights abuses by companies. The portal summarises in non-legal language over 35 cases and the positions of each side, with more cases to be added soon. It also presents special commentaries by experts...Companies in profiled lawsuits include: AngloGold Ashanti, Barclays, BHP Billiton, Biwater, Blackwater, BP, Cambior, Cape PLC, Chevron/Texaco, Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, Dow/Union Carbide, Drummond, DynCorp, ExxonMobil, Firestone, Ford, Freeport-McMoRan, IBM, Mitsubishi, Nike, Occidental, Rio Tinto, Severstal, Shell, Standard Chartered, Talisman, Trafigura, Total, UBS, Wal-Mart, Yahoo!

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1 October 2005

[DOC] Regulations for Corporations: A historical account of TNC regulation

Author: Désirée Abrahams

This paper has aimed to give a contemporary history of the regulation of transnational corporations...[refers to Ford, General Motors, IBM, Pepsi Cola (now PepsiCo), United Fruit Company (now Chiquita), International Telephone and Telegraph Company (ITT) (present-day ITT Industries was one of the companies that emerged when ITT split up), Shell, Unilever, Danone, Altria, Thor, Rio Tinto, Cape Plc, Cambior, BHP Billiton, Freeport-McMoran, Chevron, Unocal, Body Shop, Ben & Jerry's (part of Unilever), Novartis]

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21 September 2005

[DOC] Report from the ‘Business and human Rights’ Conference

Author: Danish Section of International Commission of Jurists & Danish Peace Foundation

Opening Remarks By Sune Skadegaard Thorsen, Chair-person, ICJ – Danish Section... Business, Human Rights and Accountability By Nicholas Howen, Secretary-General; International Commission of Jurists... Accountability and Human Rights By Margaret Jungk, Senior Adviser, Head of Human Rights & Business Project, Danish Institute for Human Rights... The Voluntary Nature of Corporate Social Responsibility By Peter Thagesen, Danish Industries [refers to De Beers, Unocal (part of Chevron), Shell, Sonofon (part of Telenor), Arla Foods, Novo Nordisk (part of Novo Group), Novartis, Cambior, Total, Yahoo]

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31 May 2004

States and Corporations: Legal Responsibilities to the People

Author: Ana Elena Obando, Women's Human Rights net

[A] special report on the legal, civil and criminal responsibilities of states and corporations to the people for the violation of their human rights. It explains the international legal framework and the mechanisms available that may be used to hold corporations accountable. Finally, it mentions opportunities for and limitations to advancing an agenda for women through these mechanisms. [refers to Shell, Dow Chemical, Occidental Chemical (part of Occidental Petroleum), Dole, Standard Fruit (now Dole), Standard Fruit & Steamship (now Dole), Chiquita, Monsanto, Pemex, BHP Billiton, Cambior, ExxonMobil, Texaco (part of ChevronTexaco), Total, Union Carbide (part of Dow Chemical)]

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31 October 2003

[PDF] Community redress and multinational enterprises

Author: Alice Palmer, Foundation for International Law and Development (FIELD)

This paper...serves as a basic primer on some of the legal concepts and procedures relevant to communities seeking redress from multinationals. It looks at what makes multinationals different from other businesses and examines the obstacles to redress at the national level. Secondly it considers options for developing international approaches to community redress. [refers to Cape plc, Cambior, Thor, Unocal, Freeport-McMoRan, Shell, Union Carbide, BHP Billiton, RTZ (now Rio Tinto), Chevron, Texaco (now ChevronTexaco)]

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31 January 2003

[PDF] Legal Issues in Corporate Citizenship

Author: Halina Ward, International Institute for Environment and Development

Mandatory legislation on various aspects of business transparency is emerging around the world. It can form part of company law, environmental regulation, or tailored legislation for institutional investors or on social and environmental reporting. Pressure for enhanced public sector accountability has also given rise to calls for company reporting on revenues paid to host government by companies in the extractive industries...A new wave of legal actions – mostly in US courts, but also in some EU countries – is testing the boundaries of existing legal principles in relation to some of the most difficult issues of the CSR agenda. For example, a series of cases in the US, France and Belgium are testing how fundamental principles of international law – particularly human rights law – apply to parent companies of multinational corporate groups.

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1 August 1999

Recent news articles and letters to editor regarding Omai gold mine case [lawsuit against Cambior re Guyana)

Author: S.D. Smith, Guiana Shield

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3 September 1998

Cambior case a battle of witnesses [lawsuit against Cambior re Guyana)

Author: Philip Preville, Montreal Mirror

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