Costs of £500,000 awarded to council

 

Two mining companies which lost an action for almost £2 million in damages over an illegal ban on mining in Co Mayo have been ordered by the High Court to pay half - estimated at up to £500,000 - of the legal costs of their action against Mayo County Council.

Glencar Exploration plc and Andaman Resources plc had sought to recover from the council the monies spent on exploring for gold in townlands near Westport on foot of prospecting licences obtained from the Minister for Energy.

Yesterday Mr Justice Kelly ordered the companies to pay half the costs of the 16-day action for damages taken by them against the council over the insertion of a mining ban in the County Development Plan, approved in 1992. The ban applied to one-seventh of the area of the county and was overturned by the High Court in December 1992.

The judge said it would not be just to order the companies to pay the full costs of the hearing. The conduct of the council was "certainly not beyond criticism" and, although the companies had lost their action on issues of law, they had won the issues of fact.

Last August, in a reserved judgment, Mr Justice Kelly found against both companies in the damages action.

The judge adjourned the issue of costs, and yesterday Dr Michael Forde SC, for the council, applied for his costs. The application was opposed by Mr Paul Sreenan SC, for the companies.

Ruling on the application, Mr Justice Kelly said it arose out of an action which began in 1992. In the first set of proceedings in the High Court, Mr Justice Blayney had found the mining ban imposed was illegal and had awarded costs of those proceedings to the mining companies.

The companies had then pursued the council for damages. In his judgment on that action, Mr Justice Kelly found the companies were not entitled to damages and concluded that the council should recover its costs.

However, he was also satisfied that if the entire costs were recovered against the companies it would create an unjust situation. All the factual issues in the case had been decided in Glencar's favour and the case was lost on the law.

He directed that the council should recover 50 per cent of the costs - costs of an eight-day hearing - against Glencar. He also directed that orders for costs won by Glencar regarding trial motions should be set against the hearing costs and said he would make no order in respect of reserved costs.