Thirsty for justice

Published: Thursday 31 October 2002

The residents of Kivilina, an Inupiat Eskimo village on Alaska's northwestern coast, are seeing red. Their ire is directed at the Red God Mine -- the world's largest zinc producing unit. It is due to mining activity at this site that the quality of local drinking water has deteriorated. The villagers, whose staple diet is fish, have also witnessed fish and wildlife populations suffer since 1989 when the mining operations commenced at the site.

The agitated villagers have sued Teck Cominco Limited, the company that set up the mine. The lawsuit follows failed negotiations between the company and the residents. The Kivilina people have charged Teck with 2,171 federal water-pollution violations, which have been ignored by the state and the us Environmental Protection Agency.

Filed as a citizens' action under provisions of the Clean Water Act, the suit seeks more than us $59 million in fines or the maximum us $27,500 for each violation. However, under federal law any monetary damages imposed as a result of the case would go to the us government and not to the Kivilina plaintiffs.

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