Federal Judge Denies Crown Resources/Kinross Gold Motion to Dismiss Allegations in Clean Water Act Citizen Suit

For Immediate Release

October 8, 2020

Contact: Sarah Kliegman, co-Executive Director, Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA), 509-560-4429

Spokane, WA  – On October 5, 2020, Judge Rosanna Maloof Peterson (Federal District Court, Spokane) denied Crown/Kinross’ motion to dismiss allegations brought against them earlier this year by Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) and Washington State in a Clean Water Act citizen suit.

OHA and the State have alleged over 2,600 violations against Crown/Kinross in the citizen suit because of contaminated water emanating from the Buckhorn Mine near Chesaw, WA and other issues. The companies moved to dismiss a fraction of the allegations against them by asserting that these violations are “wholly past.” They also moved to dismiss allegations brought by the State under the Washington Water Pollution Control Act.

Judge Peterson heard oral arguments via teleconference on September 24, 2020 and filed her ruling on October 5. In her decision, she agreed with OHA and the State’s arguments that, considering the pattern of consistent and egregious noncompliance exhibited by Crown/Kinross, it is too early and there is not enough evidence to dismiss violations as “wholly past.”

“OHA is glad that the court rejected Crown/Kinross’ motion to dismiss,” states Sarah Kliegman, co-Executive Director, OHA. “We look forward to moving forward with the case and stopping the continuous illegal discharge of pollution from the Buckhorn Mine that threatens the waters and ecosystems that make the Highlands so special.” 

The Buckhorn Mountain Mine is located in the rural, semi-arid part of north central Washington State where water is an especially precious resource. Farmers, ranchers, hunters, anglers, and retirees in the surrounding area depend on limited water resources for their livelihood and other activities.

Kelly Wood, appearing in court on behalf of the State, and Paul Kampmeier, appearing on behalf of OHA, argued under the rules that the allegations should stand because the claims were sufficiently stated and made in good faith. 

In her ruling, Judge Peterson affirmed that OHA and the State sufficiently stated their claims, that allegations were based on good-faith beliefs ‘formed after reasonabl[e] inquiry’ that are ‘well-grounded in fact,’ as required by the statute, and that the court has jurisdiction in the case. She also ruled that the Attorney General has the authority to bring the allegations under the Washington Water Pollution Control Act. 

Judge Peterson explained that while Crown/Kinross “challenge the ongoing nature of a certain subset of violations, namely trigger level exceedances and the dismantling of a water treatment plant at the Mine, [they] have yet to show that those wrongs, as well as the other violations alleged by [OHA and the State], have been completely eradicated at the Mine, so as to render the case moot at this juncture.”

OHA is a public interest organization in the Okanogan Highlands of north-central Washington State. OHA has been involved at the Buckhorn Mine through the environmental review and permitting processes, continually advocating for environmental protection of this region of Washington State.

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