From: Greg Griffin, The Denver Post
Published March 10, 2005 12:00 AM

Mining Company in Court Battle with Peruvian Villagers Over 2000 Mercury Spill

Newmont Mining Corp. is again squaring off against Peruvian villagers over a 2000 mercury spill near South America's largest gold mine.

Settlement talks broke down in January, and the two sides are preparing for a court battle in Denver District Court.

"We just didn't come close enough to determine it was worthwhile going forward," said Ken Crowder of Los Angeles-based Engstrom, Lipscomb & Lack, which represents the Peruvians.

The plaintiffs -- 1,100 Peruvians who live in Andean villages where the mercury was spilled -- will propose a trial date this month, Crowder said. He expects that date to be sometime next year.

Newmont said the Peruvians gave up on the talks, which were overseen by a mediator throughout the fall.

"The parties have very disparate views about the value of settlement. -- Plaintiffs counsel did not want to continue to try to bridge the gap," said Newmont spokesman Doug Hock.

Hock said the company remains willing to provide "appropriate compensation" to plaintiffs with valid claims.

In September, Newmont gave up its effort to move the court case to Peru.

A contract driver for Newmont spilled 330 pounds of liquid mercury along an Andean road in June 2000. Believing it had value, many villagers collected the substance, and some became ill.

Newmont spent $14 million to clean up the mercury and repair damage. It reached financial settlements with some villagers.

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