Mining Corporations Seek to End Gold King Mine Spill Lawsuits

Mining business defendants in the Gold King Mine Spill lawsuit are seeking to dismiss claims against them in the District of New Mexico consolidated case. Harrison Western Construction sought to dismiss claims against it from Utah and Environmental Restoration LLC in a Motion to Dismiss filed on Tuesday. Kinross Gold U.S.A. Inc. and Kinross Gold Corporation filed a Motion for Summary Judgment for claims filed by New Mexico, Utah, the Navajo Nation, and others. Sunnyside Gold Corporation also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment for similar claims. 

The Gold King Mine spill occurred on August 5, 2015. Approximately 3,000,000 gallons of contaminated water and toxic waste were reportedly released into rivers polluting the environment across state borders.  Utah settled its claims in the matter against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this year, the EPA agreed to give $3 million to help with Utah’s clean water projects. 

Sunnyside Gold Corporation argued in its motion that the spill was not its fault because it occurred after the EPA and contractors it hired breached a sealed portion of the mine. Sunnyside operated the mine between 1986 and 1991. The defendant argued that the plaintiffs had not produced sufficient evidence to prove the company was “subject to either general or specific personal jurisdiction in New Mexico or Utah,” and thus the court should grant its motion for summary judgment. 

Kinross said that it had no role in the events leading to the spill, the motion said, “it is undisputed that the Blowout was caused by the EPA and its contractors—in fact, the EPA admitted it was responsible within hours after the Blowout began.” The company said it was included as a defendant only because Sunnyside Gold Corporation is an indirect subsidiary of the company. 

Harrison Western Construction Corporation said in its motion that it has no liability and that the claims against it have no basis.  It also said since it is a Colorado corporation, Utah and New Mexico courts do not have jurisdiction. The company said it was retained in 2014 to help reopen the mine, and recommended the excavation stop when they noticed seepage, and it was stopped. The company worked on a “revised construction plan,” but it was reportedly not a part of the plan used in August 2015. 

Sunnyside Gold Corporation is represented by Crowley Fleck PLLP. Kinross Gold U.S.A., Inc. and Kinross Gold Corporation were represented by Holland & Hart LLP. Harrison Western Construction Corporation is represented by Hall & Evans, LLC