San Francisco, CA - January 5, 2001
Bechtel Corporation has learned from press reports that it has been named in a complaint brought by the attorney general of the state of Colorado in connection with the company's limited role as a construction contractor at the Summitville gold mine during the mid-1980s."We are frankly at a loss to understand what the Colorado attorney general is doing here. Fourteen years after our company successfully and safely completed its defined scope of work on the Summitville facility, Mr. Salazar now apparently seeks for the first time to obtain some relief from Bechtel," says Steve Butler, a Bechtel lawyer. "As we understand it, his complaint appears to be based on serious factual errors and reflects a real misunderstanding of what actually occurred."
Bechtel Responds To News Of Summitville Complaint By Colorado Attorney General Salazar
"It has been almost a decade since the federal government and the state of Colorado began to take a long, hard look at Summitville's problems and those who might be held accountable," says Butler. "During all this time of intensive investigation, we have cooperated fully with all government authorities - and no government claim has ever been filed against Bechtel, quite simply because all of the investigations have reached the unavoidable conclusion that we had no responsibility for any of the problems resulting from Summitville. We think it is telling that the federal government is not a party to the state attorney general's latest lawsuit."
Galactic Resources Inc. and Summitville Consolidated Mining Company Inc. (SCMCI) were the owners and operators of the Summitville project. Bechtel's services were limited to the engineering and construction of the milling and processing facilities at Summitville.
Bechtel was not involved in either engineering or constructing any of the areas of the project that were purportedly involved with either (a) the release of hazardous substances into the environment or (b) the subsequent remedial action by the federal government and the state.
The mining, leach pad, and waste disposal areas - the focus of the clean-up effort - were all specifically excluded from Bechtel's scope of services at Summitville.
At no time did Bechtel ever own or operate any part of the Summitville mine project. The January 3 article in the Denver Post about the state attorney general's lawsuit is flatly wrong in reporting that Bechtel operated the crushing and cyanide systems at Summitville.
To the contrary, Bechtel's services were completed and its people left the site shortly after mining operations started in mid-1986.
In 1996, both the federal and Colorado governments brought a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver alleging that Robert Friedland and his companies, Galactic and SCMCI, along with others, were liable for cleaning up the Summitville site.
Even after Friedland alleged that Bechtel was partially responsible and brought it into the suit, neither the United States nor Colorado sought to add Bechtel as a defendant.
A ruling by the Court in that suit dismissed Friedland's claim that Bechtel was somehow an "owner" of the facility. Friedland has just agreed to pay some $28 million to settle the claims against him and his companies, Galactic and SCMCI.
Friedland's remaining claim that Bechtel was an "operator" of the facility is the subject of a pending motion before the federal court to dismiss.
"The bottom line," Butler concludes, "is that--as has been found by extensive, indeed exhaustive, federal and state investigations--we're not in any way responsible for what went wrong at the mine site. We therefore intend to vigorously defend ourselves in this case."