Glamis Gold Open Pit Mines in California Desert

The mining plans would have destroyed sacred Quechan lands in California's Imperial Valley.



Sarah Burt

Regional Office / Program

Case Overview

In 2001, Clinton Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt refused to approve the mining plan of Glamis Gold, a Canadian mining company, because it would have destroyed the sacred tribal lands. California later passed a law requiring open pit mines to be refilled after mining was completed; a process the company argues is too expensive to make the mine profitable. The Bush administration reversed the Babbitt decision, but then didn’t issue the necessary permits. The California reclamation law is still on the books. However, the company claims the California law and the Babbitt denial violate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which provides special protection for the profits of foreign companies.

In October 2006, Earthjustice filed an amicus submission on behalf of Sierra Club and Earthworks opposing Glamis’ claims. In 2009, the court announced that the mining firm’s claim had major flaws, and foreign investors have no rights to attack domestic health and environmental laws.

An open pit gold and silver mine in New Zealand.
An open pit gold and silver mine in New Zealand. (Airflore / Flickr)

Case Updates

June 8, 2009 Press Release: Victory

U.S. Dodges Bullet on NAFTA Glamis Case

Mining firm's claim had major flaws, but four foreign investor cases against U.S. totaling over $6 billion still pending

October 16, 2006 Press Release

Conservation Groups Defend California's Right to Regulate Gold Mining, Protect Culture and Environment

Canadian mining firm challenges U.S. in NAFTA trade panel