Tag Archives: Eritrea

World class Canada mining firm accused of slavery abroad can be sued at home, supreme court rules

Trucks ferry excavated gold, copper and zinc ore from the main mining pit at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Case brought by three Eritreans against Nevsun Resources can continue as companies operating overseas face new legal risk

AFP | 28 February 2020 

A Vancouver-based mining company can be sued in Canada for alleged human rights abuses overseas including allegations of modern slavery, Canada’s supreme court has ruled.

The decision means three Eritreans who filed a civil suit against Nevsun Resources in British Columbia can continue their case in a lower court.

It also creates new legal risks for Canadian firms operating abroad – notably in the resources and clothing sectors – as companies previously could only be held liable in foreign jurisdictions in which alleged abuses occurred.

The plaintiffs claimed they and more than 1,000 others had been conscripted through Eritrea’s military service into forced labour to construct Nevsun’s Bisha gold, copper and zinc mine in the east African nation between 2008 and 2012, and subjected to violent, cruel and inhuman treatment.

In court documents they alleged being forced to work 12 hours a day, six days a week, being beaten with sticks, and being bound and left to bake under the hot sun.

The trio later escaped Eritrea and became refugees.

Nevsun argued that the case should be thrown out on the basis of the act of state doctrine, which precludes domestic courts from assessing acts of foreign governments. But that was rejected by a majority of the justices on the top bench.

The supreme court also held that international human rights law – notably fundamental tenets called “peremptory norms” that are so important they are considered universal – may be applied to this case.

“Violations of peremptory norms are serious violations of rights that are important to everyone, everywhere. They need to be strongly discouraged,” the court said in a statement.

In 2017, the supreme court declined to hear a similar case involving a group of Guatemalans suing Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources for alleged abuses at the company’s mine in Guatemala.

The men sought redress for what they say were injuries suffered during the violent suppression of their protest against the company’s Escobal silver and gold mine south-east of Guatemala City.

They argued in court filings – and a lower court agreed – that they were unlikely to obtain justice in Guatemala, and therefore brought the civil case to Canada, where Tahoe has its headquarters.

The company apologized in July 2019 for the rights violations as part an out-of-court settlement with demonstrators who had been shot and wounded while protesting.


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Canadian mining company profiting from slavery says UN



A Canadian mining corporation is profiting from slave labor in Eritrea, according to a new UN report.

The survivors of conscription in Eritrea have reported brutal scenes of torture, rape, and summary execution. They’re made to work backbreaking jobs under the guise of “national service” for international corporations like Nevsun, which opted into this system when it opened its Bisha mine.

When confronted about its connection to slave labor, Nevsun Resources Ltd has refused to face the facts. Instead, it gleefully advertises the Eritrean mine as “untapped potential”.

Now that this UN report is out, the international community will be watching closely.Nevsun even had to respond publicly to the allegations. Its answer? That the UN failed to rely on the company’s own “independent” human rights assessment.

Few dispute that the Eritrean state has been involved in significant human rights abuses. But Nevsun is the only foreign mining company paying royalties and taxes to the Eritrean treasury — almost a billion dollars so far, and another $14 billion over the next ten years.

Why does Nevsun do this? Because it’s making billions of dollars from the Bisha mine.

Nevsun says these indentured workers were sub-contracted, and therefore not its responsibility. Imagine if every mining company across the world took this position, and tried to wash their hands of the most egregious of human rights abuses happening right under their noses.

It’s increasingly common — companies are trying to bury human rights abuses through opaque supply chains, and mining companies are some of the worst.

Together, we can prevent more shady investment in Eritrea — especially for companies that want to follow Nevsun’s example and profit from the sweat and tears of indentured workers.

We’ve done it before — a few months ago we got the CEO of mining giant Newmont to agree to stop building its Conga mine in Peru without community consent.

Tell Nevsun there’s no excuse for slavery — make sure ALL your workers get paid!

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