MAC: Mines and Communities

Meridian Gold Officials Sent To Public And Oral Proceedings

Published by MAC on 2006-08-23



23rd August 2006

A recent rule by the Esquel Appeals Court rejects the "probation" and dismissal that had been ruled by a former Judge.

Esquel, Chubut - August 12th 2006. Three high officials of the Canadian mining company, Meridian Gold, will face oral proceedings in this city for disobeying the environmental appeal that had stopped the mining project in Esquel in 2003. Yesterday, the Appeals Court of North Western Chubut rejected decisions by the former Judge, Jorge Criado, who had accepted the proposed probation and had ruled their dismissal.

The Court Decision rejects the request for dismissing Mónica Mariaca Pando in addition to rejecting the advantages of the so-called "probation" for Darcy Edward Marud (the former Exploration Manager of Minera El Desquite S.A. -Esquel, a subsidiary of Meridian Gold Inc). and current Vice-President of Explorations for Meridian Gold Inc.), and Gonzalo Tufino (former General Manager of Minera El Desquite S.A. (Esquel) , both of whom were high level officials of the mining company and had been charged for "disobeying".[The court] cited Art. 239 of the Criminal Code and will go to oral proceedings.

Another step forward in the peoples' fight against the mine

The news has been welcomed by the citizens of Esquel. In one of the latest demonstrations that the neighbors organise on the 4th day of every month, the people approached the Court buildings to put up a banner that said "trial and punishment to all disobeying and malCriados miners" (Note: "Malcriado means "spoiled"), clearly refering to this court case and to Judge Jorge Criado for having ruled the probation and having accepted the money offer from the defendants Marud and Tufino.

The Judge had considered in his ruling - now rejected by the Court - that "the amount for economic restoration offered by the defendants is reasonable". According to high judicial sources, following the resolution from the Esquel Appeals Court, the defendants could now be called to Court to an interrogatory. In this cenario, they should travel from the US where at least two of them now live now. Afterwards, a date for the oral proceedings will be established.

Summary of legal actions

These decisions originate from the environmental appeal submitted by a Esquel citizens, after which the Judge Claudio Petris ruled, in February 2003, that the mining project in Esquel should be stopped. This decision had not been observed by Meridian Gold officials.

A series of well- ocumented facts made Public Prosecutor Martin Zacchino request the case go to court given the decision had been disobeyed. In the trial it would be shown that the company did this work after the prohibition ruling was in place: putting in place devices for meteorologic measurements, panels and devices for measuring stream flows; implementing hydro-geological studies for which at least 22 drills had to be sunk and geological mappings made; do drilling for rock and soil samples, and carry out measurements and analyses of the samples; transport and store substances to and from the"Cordón Esquel" mining project area; keep and operate illegal storage sites in Esquel.

Marud and Tufino's lawyers requested the probation and offered Argentinean Pesos 13,000 (appr. U$ 4,300) from each defendant, to be distributed to the work done by the "Colegio Salesiano". The Judge, Jorge Criado, approved the probation for Marud and Tufino and dismissed Ms. Mariaca Pando, accepting her statement that she "lacked decision-making power inside the company".

Following this new decision of the Esquel Appeal Court, represented by Jorge Früchtenicht and Gunther Enrique Flas (Benjamín Moisá was on leave), the date for the oral proceedings, to prove the degree of responsibility of each of the defendants in this case, is yet to be set.

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