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A Native American group is entitled to $8.6 million from a Canadian company that polluted the Columbia River, a federal appeals court ruled.
In Pakootas v. Teck Cominco Metals, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court decision against the mining company. The award will repay the cost of investigation and attorney's fees in the case.
Now that the courts have found the company liable, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation will pursue damages. They are dealing with nearly a century of water pollution.
10 Million Tons
Teck Cominco Metals is the largest zinc and lead mining company in the world. The Confederated Tribes sued Teck for allegedly releasing nearly 10 million tons of slag into the river north of the U.S. border.
The defendant claimed that U.S. courts had no jurisdiction, but the Ninth Circuit said it was "inconceivable" that Teck did not know its waste would flow mere miles south through the international border.
Washington joined the tribes, which share the river with the state. Experts found that the pollution poisoned the aquatic ecosystem, killing life such as the Chinook salmon.
"As early as the 1930s, Teck knew that its slag had been found on the beaches of the Columbia River south of the United States border," the Ninth Circuit said. "And by the early 1990s, Teck's management acknowledged that the company was 'in effect dumping waste into another country.'"
In a press release, the tribes said they had battled with the mining company for more than a decade.
"This is a unique case, not only because a Canadian mining company has been found liable under U.S. law, but because an Indian Tribe and a state have joined forces to protect a shared treasured resource -- the Columbia River," the release said.