Utah Reaches Settlement With Mining Companies in Gold King Mine Lawsuit

Utah and mining companies, Sunnyside Gold Corporation, Kinross Gold Corporation, and Kinross Gold U.S. A. Inc. asked the New Mexico District Court on Friday to approve a consent decree with a settlement between the parties associated with the Gold King Mine Release in August 2015. 

Utah’s lawsuit included claims under the Comprehensive Environment Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, that the release of hazardous substances from the mine caused it harm and that the defendants should help pay for the costs of clean up.  According to Monday’s joint motion, the mining companies filed counterclaims with similar allegations against Utah. 

“Over the past four years, Utah’s and the Mining Defendants’ respective claims have been the subject of extensive litigation efforts. … To date, the collective litigation efforts of the parties to the mutli-district litigation include over one thousand filings, several million pages of document production, and more than one hundred depositions,” the filing stated. 

Under the settlement agreement, which was reached by the parties on March 4, 2021, the mining companies will pay $5.5 million to Utah within 30 days of the court’s final order. Friday’s motion explained that $1 million will be paid relating to the CERCLA claims. Both Utah and the mining companies will be released from the litigation and both parties agreed not to sue or take other action against the other party. 

The parties claimed in their motion that the settlement between the parties “is fair, reasonable, and consistent with CERCLA’s goals” and asked for the court to approve it. Sunnyside Gold Corporation is represented by Crowley Fleck PLLP, Kinross is represented by Holland & Hart LLP, and Utah is represented by King & Spalding LLP

Utah was the first state to reach a settlement in the matter with the United States and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The federal government agreed to pay $3 million to Utah, which would be earmarked for clean water projects throughout the state. 

More recently in the multidistrict litigation matter, the Kinross defendants were granted summary judgment with respect to claims against them from individuals who are members of the Navajo Nation and residents of Utah and other neighboring states. Kinross withdrew its motion for summary judgement with New Mexico, the Navajo Nation, and Utah, citing that it had reached an agreement with those plaintiffs.