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Eritrea: UN report alleges forced labour at Nevsun mines


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29 June 2015

Eritrea: UK govt. meets Nevsun to discuss forced labour allegations

Author: Martin Plaut, Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (UK) on his personal blog

"Eritrea: British Government meets Nevsun mining over use of forced labour", 25 Jun 2015

The Canadian Mining group, Nevsun, has been under intense pressure after the UN’s Commission of Inquiry found evidence that it was employing Eritrean conscripts. The National Service personnel, working through a South African subcontractor, were using the conscripts in slave-like conditions. As the UN report put it: “Eritreans are subject to systems of national service and forced labour that effectively abuse, exploit and enslave them for indefinite periods of time.” This issue was taken up by the UK Foreign and Commonweath Office during a meeting earlier this month, it has been revealed (see below). Nevsun assured the British that it has put in place safeguards to prevent this happening. I have highlighted the key paragraph before including the rest of the letter...

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Company response
26 June 2015

Nevsun comments re UN report on forced labour at its Eritrean mine

Author: Nevsun

Nevsun’s commitment to human rights

Our Company is committed to human rights for our workers and the nearby communities. More information on how we run our business can be gleaned from our various annual CSR Reports at nevsun.com and a copy of the independent human rights impact assessment at the Bisha Mine can be accessed here: http://nevsun.com/responsibility/human-rights/Nevsun-HRIA-April-2014.pdf 

A follow-up independent human rights impact assessment audit on the Bisha Mine  is scheduled for release in early July 2015. This reinforces both our Company and the Government of Eritrea’s sustained transparency to human rights in all aspects of the Bisha Mine. A recent United Nations Commission report included some sensational and unbelievable human rights allegations with respect to the Bisha Mine, which allegations were made without visiting either the mine or the country. Despite attempts by our Company to engage with this specific United Nations Commission, it chose not to engage with the Company to verify any basic facts or allegations or to report on the independent human rights impact assessment. This brings into serious question the methodology, process and collation of information in their report. Nevsun remains firmly committed to compliance with Eritrean national law and the continuation of international standards and practices with respect to human rights. We also remain committed to dialogue with the Commission, other UN agencies and stakeholder groups. 

[Nevsun also referred us to its Corporate Social Responsibility Report for 2014 which can be accessed here: http://www.nevsun.com/pdf/Nevsun-2014-CSR-Report.pdf]

12 June 2015

UN Report Alleges Forced Labor at Canadian-Owned Mine in Eritrea

Author: Hilary Beaumont, Vice News

A UN report on human rights abuses in Eritrea has unearthed new allegations of forced labor at a Canadian-owned mining company...Workers quoted in the report say they were conscripted to work against their will for Canadian mining company Nevsun...[W]orkers were punished for taking a break, not working hard enough, fighting, conversing or not following orders...Nevsun says, "our company does not tolerate any forms of abuse, involuntary labor or discriminatory labor practices." But human rights lawyer James Yap, who is bringing a class action suit against the Vancouver-based company, says abuses at the mine are all too common...In a statement emailed to VICE News, Nevsun said it attempted to contact the UN Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry and requested a meeting, but the commission did not reply...The company...declined to comment on the lawsuit, as the matter is before the courts. In its statement of defense, Nevsun says it denies allegations...The lawsuit against Nevsun is scheduled to go to court in January 2016...

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5 June 2015

Report of the detailed findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea

Author: UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, Human Rights Council

The Commission of Inquiry undertook its investigation in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 26/24. Although the Commission was unable to visit Eritrea, it obtained first-hand testimony by conducting 550 confidential interviews with witnesses residing in third countries...On the basis of this body of evidence, the Commission found that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed in Eritrea under the authority of the Government...On 20 November 2014, three Eritreans filed a lawsuit against Nevsun in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Canada, in relation to whether Nevsun relied upon forced labour...The Commission collected evidence that forced labour occurred in the context of the development and exploitation of the Bisha mine, 150 km west of Asmara...The Bisha Mining Shareholders Corporation (BMSC), which operates the mine, is 60 per cent owned by the Canadian company, Nevsun...

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