A mining engineer without a lawyer at his side is half naked. A mining company without its posse of lawyers is left in the dust. I suspect that society without lawyers would be just another brutal land as portrayed by DiCaprio in Blood Diamonds—a movie more about the collapse of civil society than about mining, diamonds, or DiCaprio.

Not that the mining industry with lawyers looks any more compassionate than Africa in a coup. For example, see the shock expressed by the vice-president of SNC Lavalin, and probably shared by similar officers at Bechtel and Bantrel when Suncor’s lawyers served then with a $630 million claim for a defective nozzle that corroded and caused a fire.

To preserve the nice guy image, and no doubt distance the mining industry from charges of sending out hitmen in lawyer’s suites, Suncor’s spokesman exculpated the mine with this explanation: we are required to by our insurance company to file the lawsuit.

Now you understand: miners are nice guys—they do not file lawsuits—they just do what the insurance salesman tells them to do.

My sympathy in this case is with SNC. I have been a consultant too long not to have sweated over the fear come real in this case: no involvement by SNC in the engineering construction. I cannot help wondering if this is sloppy litigation, or the vicious hunting instinct that shoots at everything on the horizon in the hopes of bagging the game. At the very least the miner should have curtailed frivolous litigation, for the tables will turn and then they will have no moral claim against frivolous litigation.

As lawsuits go, $630 million [Canadian] is not much. But I bet that even now the experts are lining up to prepare Expert Reports, depositions, trial testimony, and savoring the though of juicy fees, as one expert after the other claims it could not be so while another claims it could be so, and a third says it was so. There is nothing more depressing than reading expert opinions: obfustication, sloppy science, biases, arrogance, avoidance, and downright lies.

One lawyer I respect summed it up thus: miners cannot give a simple answer yes or no when they respond to a question by a lawyer. But that is what you would expect. In this case they cannot say no to the insurance salesman—how can you expect them to say no to a lawyer? Welcome to the wild west.