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Lawsuit

Cambior lawsuit (re Omai Gold mine, filed in Guyana)

Status: CLOSED

Incident date
May 1, 2003
Date accuracy
Year Correct
Unknown
Community
Location of Filing: Guyana
Location of Incident: Guyana
Type of Litigation: Domestic
Company: Cambior
Company Sector: Mining
Company Location: Canada

Sources

Snapshot: In August 1995, the tailings dam at the Omai Mine in Guyana partially owned by Canadian mining company Cambior failed, spilling mine tailings containing cyanide, heavy metals and other pollutants into the Essequibo River. After unsuccessful legal action in Canada, a lawsuit was filed in Guyana against Cambior in 2003 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.

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.

- “Omai suit dismissed", NS Energy, 1 Dec 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

Case Timeline

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