Plaintiffs to Pay Mining Company Court Fees After Environmental Dispute

Sep 9, 2014

A Duluth woman is raising money to offset court costs that she’s being asked to pay on behalf of a mining company. 

Laura Gouger says she and two other plaintiffs have to pay more than $60,000 of the opposing side’s legal fees…after losing a case they brought against the Flambeau Mining Company. 

“I’m very disappointed.  I would say that mining companies are not held accountable for polluting public waters.”

The Flambeau mine near Ladysmith was an open pit copper and gold mine that operated between 1991 and 1999. 

The site has been reclaimed and it’s often cited as a model of safe and successful mining. 

But Gouger and two other plaintiffs alleged the mine was polluting a tributary of the Flambeau River with copper and zinc. 

In 2012 a federal judge said pollution levels were minimal but ruled the mining company was violating the Clean Water Act by not having the correct permit. 

But last year an appeals court overturned the ruling…saying the Flambeau Mining Company wasn’t at fault because the Wisconsin DNR hadn’t required that permit. 

Since the mining company won the case, it wants the plaintiffs to pay its court costs. 

Laura Gouger says it's not fair for an individual to bear the burden.  She sees it as a lesson for other communities worried about the accountability of mining companies in legal processes. 

“The whole Flambeau mine controversy is much bigger than what happened at Ladysmith – there are a number of levels of important issues playing out here.”

Gouger has set up an online fundraiser that she hopes will help pay her portion of the 60-thousand dollar bill. 

The Flambeau Mining Company is a subsidiary of Kennecott Minerals, which is owned by international mining giant Rio Tinto.