The l995 spill case is currently in the high court
Stabroek News
September 28, 2001

Dear Editor,

I refer to a letter [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] to the editor headlined, `How long do we have to wait for better compensation?' (SN, 22.9.200l), which was submitted by Mr Francis Simon, who is worried about payment from Omai Gold Mines Limited (OGML) for damages suffered as a result of the 1995 spill. In that letter I was referred to as the person who is seeking US$100M as compensation for the residents. Please allow me to clarify as well as inform you and your readers about the disposition of the case.

Since the Canadian court ruled that, although we had a valid case, it had no jurisdiction to hear the case, (a ruling we are still challenging), we encountered an inordinate amount of difficulty and resistance finding competent counsel in Guyana to represent the 23,000 residents of the `environmental disaster zone' which was established by the Government of Guyana. Most of the local jurists with whom we discussed the case turned out to be disinterested because of the lack of up-front fees, lack of competence, or conflict of interest, while others indicated that the grounds upon which the case is based, ie class action, is unprecedented in Guyana jurisprudence and would be difficult and costly for them to defend in the courts. Through support from local and international environmental justice groups and organizations we were able to organize and mobilize over 600 residents from the area to come to Georgetown on the third anniversary of the disaster, August 17, 1998, to file suit on behalf of the 23,000 residents in the High Court against OGML. Since the filing of that suit the substance of the case has still not been heard because of procedural actions brought by OGML.

Luckily we solicited and obtained the consent of respected Senior Counsel, Mr Peter Britton. I have also been reminded by one of the lawyers working on refiling the case in Canada, that Cambior Inc, the parent company of OGML has spent over $US2M fighting the case when such resources could have been better spent on relief for the residents. This is more money than the entire court system in Guyana receives in one year. We wish that the local press like Stabroek News would be more informed about the fact that a case has been filed in the High Court and that hearings are taking place. We have also been asking OGML to come to the settlement table to discuss resolution of this matter.

Yours faithfully,

Gustav Jackson, Executive Director

Guyana Research and Environmental Education Network (GREEN)