Court Dismisses Gold King Mine Claims from Farmers, Navajo Nation Members Against Kinross

The District of New Mexico issued an order Thursday granting Kinross Gold Corporation’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that it is not responsible for claims against it from individuals known as the Allen plaintiffs. These plaintiffs include “members of the Navajo Nation and residents of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah” who live and farm along rivers harmed by the 2015 Gold King Mine hazardous substance release. 

The court ruled, as Kinross argued in its October 2020 motion, that the defendant was not subject to personal jurisdiction in New Mexico or Utah and that the claims must be dismissed. Kinross, along with other companies who had used the Gold King Mine prior to the hazardous chemical release, purported that they were not using the site when the breach occurred and that the breach was caused by contractors with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the filing, Kinross had withdrawn its motion for summary judgment with respect to New Mexico, Navajo Nation, and Utah because the defendant reached an agreement with these plaintiffs. The Allen plaintiffs, who had not reached an agreement with the mining company, reportedly did not dispute Kinross’ claims showing that they did not have interest in Sunnyside, another mining company involved in the lawsuits, before 2003. The Allen plaintiffs’ claims against Sunnyside were dismissed when the court ruled that they were “barred by Colorado’s statute of repose” in March. 

In November 2020, the United States filed an opposition to Kinross’ request for summary judgment, claiming that the claims against Kinross arise under federal laws, specifically the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. Additionally, the government argued that Kinross does business in the United States and was involved in decisions about the disposal of the hazardous waste caused by the mine. 

The Allen plaintiffs, according to their amended complaint, live in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah and use property adjacent to either the Animas or San Juan rivers to raise livestock or farm. They claimed that the Gold King Mine blowout in 2015, which released millions of gallons of contaminated water, caused them property damage and contaminated their land, crops, and animals. Additionally, they were forced to find and pay for other water sources to care for their crops and animals and to use for drinking and other personal use. 

The Allen plaintiffs, represented by Egolf + Ferlic + Martinez + Harwood LLC, also filed claims against the United States and the EPA. Kinross is represented by Holland & Hart