MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2006-06-21



21st June 2006

Boac, Marinduque - Judge Brian E. Sandoval of the United States District Court in the District of Nevada, USA, granted on July 19, 2006 the motion of the Province of Marinduque that Barrick Gold Corporation be joined as a defendant in a civil case filed originally against Placer Dome, Inc.

On October 4, 2005, the Provincial Government of Marinduque filed a case against Placer Dome, Inc. in Nevada state court in relation to the series of environmental disasters, health and livelihood impacts of the 30-year mining operations of Marcopper Mining Corporation in the Island-Province of Marinduque. The province insisted that Placer Dome, Inc. managed and operated the local mining operations during the period 1968 until it divested its interests from the mines in 1997 following the infamous Boar River Disaster of March 24, 1996. On October 27, 2005 the case was moved to the Nevada District Court on motion of the defendant.

However, on January 19, 2006, it was announced that Barrick has already acquired 81% of Placer Dome's shares and has replaced nine of the twelve members of PDI's Board of Directors with those from Barrick. Gregory Wilkins, Barrick's President and CEO also replaced PDI's President and CEO. Since then, Barrick was in full control of all Nevada subsidiaries and mines of Placer Dome, Inc.

Atty. James D. McCarthy, the Lead Counsel for the Province emphasized that "Placer Dome has apparently ceased to exist, or ceased to exist in any meaningful sense. It is no longer incorporated in British Colombia, no longer has any assets or properties in Canada or elsewhere, no longer has any ongoing operations, and has been fully subsumed by (and amalgamated into) Barrick. What Placer Dome once had (both assets and liabilities) has either been transferred to Barrick or been sold by Barrick."

The Counsel further stated that "Barrick is now liable for and responsible for any judgment that the Province might obtain against Placer Dome in this proceeding. Considerations of equity and efficiency, as well as a need for realism, therefore demand that Barrick be joined as a named Defendant in this litigation, if only to insure that no additional proceedings to collect against Barrick are required."

He finally argued that "because Barrick has long been aware of this lawsuit, and has long been involved in this lawsuit, it is not prejudiced by its addition as a party. That lack of prejudice is especially obvious in the circumstances of this lawsuit, where - despite its eight month tenure in the courts - no Defendant has filed an answer or given any discovery, even the jurisdictional discovery that Placer Dome now concedes to be proper, and no Defendant has done anything whatsoever to address the merits of this lawsuit."

These information were obtained by the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns from official records of the case regularly furnished to it by the law firm which represents the Province of Marinduque in the lawsuit.

MACEC's Executive Secretary Myke Magalang is hopeful that "the inclusion of Barrick in the case will give meaningful victory for the province and the people who were directly affected by the series of mining disasters in our province. Otherwise, we can only expect a ceremonial victory against Placer Dome because it has no more assets to use in case the court decides on our favor."

In a related development, MACEC is preparing to present to the officials of the Provincial Government a declaration of support to the Nevada Case signed by an estimate of 9,500 Marinduqueños and resolution of endorsements from various barangay councils in the province.

Magalang noted that "while MACEC supports the filing of the case in Nevada in order to obtain justice for the people and environment which we failed to get from the Philippine judicial system, we also have some reservations because of the non-inclusion of the directly affected individuals as plaintiffs in the said case. Nevertheless, we believe that this is an important venue in our fight for environmental justice. Our task is to ensure that the poor victims of the mining disasters in the province will be given priority in case compensatory awards are granted by the Nevada court to the province."

Myke R. Magalang
Executive Secretary
Tel. Nos. (042) 332-2713
Sacred Heart Diocesan Pastoral Center
Second Floor, Cathedral Compound, High Town,
Boac, 4900 Marinduque
Tel. Nos. (042) 332-2713

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