Justice: Giant Mine Royal Oak files statement of defence

by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

NNSL (OCT 04/96) - The nine miners who died in the Giant Mine blast knew the risks involved in working on the property, Royal Oak Mines says in a statement of defence.

The statement is part of a recent flurry of paperwork filed in a civil court action begun in 1994 by the Workers' Compensation Board on behalf of the wives of the miners who died on Sept. 18, 1992.

Numerous individuals and groups are named as defendants in the $34-million suit, including Royal Oak Resources, the territorial government and the union representing the miners on strike at the time.

In its statement, Royal Oak claims the miners were not only aware of the risk, but voluntarily accepted and assumed any risk.

However, a reply to that statement says that Margaret Witte and William Sheridan, as company board members, were in control of the mine and labor relations and that they inflamed the dangerous environment.

"They encouraged, allowed, procured or directed the commission of the wrongful acts or omissions of others, including Roger Wallace Warren, which caused or contributed to the explosion and moral injuries suffered."

The reply goes further, saying the miners at no time accepted any risk in entering the mine.

The miners died when their man car triggered a 36-kilogram home-made bomb during the often violent May 1992 to December 1994 labor dispute.

Roger Warren was convicted of the blast in January 1995, and is currently serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 20 years.

Both the Crown and Warren have launched appeals and a hearing is scheduled to for the NWT Court of Appeal in Yellowknife next May.