Newmont Mining fights off lawsuit over mercury pollution in Peru

Continuing its energetic pursuit of the Worst Global Corporate Citizen Award, Denver-based Newmont Mining Corp. is headed into legal battle with Peruvian peasants suffering long-term health consequences from mercury contamination around one of the company’s gold mines. In June of 2000, a truck carrying canisters of liquid mercury — a toxic byproduct of gold extraction — leaked some 330 pounds of the stuff out onto the highway. Next thing you know, peasant children were taking blobs home on spoons and their parents were boiling it, trying to extract gold. Oops! Needless to say, said villagers are now suffering from an array of horrific health problems, from headaches to loss of vision to fainting spells. For three years, Newmont fought to keep the case out of U.S. courts, finally agreeing to mediation talks held in January. But those talks were unsuccessful, and the plaintiffs now plan to press their case in a Denver court. If they win, their lawyers claim it will be the first time a U.S. company is held liable in the U.S. for environmental contamination outside the country.