Nevsun lawsuit (re Bisha mine, Eritrea)
In November 2014, three Eritreans filed a lawsuit against Nevsun Resources in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. They allege the company was complicit in the use of forced labour by Nevsun’s local sub-contractor, Segen Construction (owned by Eritrea’s ruling party), at the Bisha mine in Eritrea. Nevsun, headquartered in Vancouver, has denied the allegations. This lawsuit is the first in Canada where claims are based directly on violations of international law.
The plaintiffs, Gize Yebeyo Araya, Kesete Tekle Fshazion and Mihretab Yemane Tekle, claim that they worked at the Bisha mine against their will and were subject to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”. They allege that they were forced to work long hours and lived in constant fear of threats of torture and intimidation. Nevsun has rejected the allegations as “unfounded” and declared that “the Bisha Mine has adhered at all times to international standards of governance, workplace conditions, and health and safety”.
In October 2016, the Supreme Court of British Colombia rejected Nevsun’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and ruled that the case should proceed in British Colombia as there were doubts that the plaintiffs would get a fair trial in Eritrea. Nevsun appealed the decision.
In November 2017, the British Columbia Court of Appeal rejected Nevsun's appeal to dismiss the suit, thereby allowing the case to proceed in Canadian courts. The court also allowed claims of crimes against humanity, slavery, forced labour, and torture to go forward against Nevsun. This decision marked the first time an appellate court in Canada permitted a mass tort claim for modern slavery.
On 19 January 2018, Nevsun filed an application with the Canadian Supreme Court asking for permission to appeal the British Columbia ruling. On 14 June 2018, the Supreme Court allowed Nevsun to appeal the November 2017 decision, giving the company another chance to argue against the lawsuit going to trial.
- "Supreme Court decision on Vancouver mining company could have international human rights impact, expert says", The Star Vancouver, 25 June 2018
- "Vancouver-based mining company granted Supreme Court appeal in ‘conscripted labour’ case", The Star Vancouver, 22 June 2018
- "Nevsun appeals to Canada Supreme Court in Eritreans' forced labor lawsuit", Reuters, 26 Jan 2018
- "Court allows Eritrean mine workers to sue Nevsun", Nelson Bennett, Business in Vancouver, 6 Oct 2016
- [Video] "Nevsun in Eritrea: Dealing With a Dictator", CBC Radio-Canada, 12 Feb 2016
- [FR] «Une minière canadienne nie des allégations de travail forcé en Érythrée », Radio-Canada, 23 novembre 2014
- “Nevsun Denies Accusations of Human-Rights Abuses at Eritrea Mine”, Michael Gunn & Firat Kayakiran, Bloomberg, 21 Nov 2014
- “Nevsun Resources faces lawsuit over ‘forced labour’ in Eritrea”, Jeff Gray, Globe and Mail (Canada), 20 Nov 2014
Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ):
- "Vancouver court clears way for slave labour lawsuit against Canadian mining company to go to trial", 6 Oct 2016
- “Eritreans file lawsuit against Canadian mining company for slave labour and crimes against humanity”, 20 Nov 2014
- [FR] « Des Érythréens intentent un recours contre une compagnie minière canadienne pour l'usage de main d'œuvre servile ainsi que pour des crimes contre l'humanité », 20 novembre 2014
- "Appeal court confirms slave labour lawsuit against Canadian mining company can go to trial", 21 Nov 2017
Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman [Counsel for the plaintiffs]
- "Plaintiffs’ Submissions on Forum Non Conveniens", 17 Dec 2015
- "Plaintiffs’ Submissions on the Representative Proceeding", 17 Dec 2015
- "Plaintiffs’ Submissions on Customary International Law", 15 Dec 2015
- "Plaintiffs’ Submissions on the Act of State Doctrine", 14 Dec 2015
- "Notice of Civil Claim", 20 Nov 2014
Siskinds [Co-counsel for the plaintiffs]
- "Siskinds co-counsel in lawsuit against Nevsun Resources", 20 Nov 2014
Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP [Counsel for the defendant]
- "Nevsun’s Chambers Brief on Customary International Law", 1 Dec 2015
- "Nevsun’s Chambers Brief on Forum Non Conveniens", 23 Nov 2015
- "Nevsun’s Chambers Brief on the Act of State Doctrine", 23 Nov 2015
- "Nevsun’s Chambers Brief on the Representative Proceeding", 23 Nov 2015
- "Nevsun’s Response to Civil Claim", 13 Feb 2015
- Araya v. Nevsun Resources. Reasons for Judgment, Justice Abrioux, Supreme Court of British Columbia, 6 Oct 2016
- Araya, Gize v. Nevsun Resources Ltd.[payment required], Vancouver law courts, 20 Nov 2014.
- Gize Yebeyo Araya, Kesete Tekle Fshazion and Mihretab Yemane Tekle v Nevsun Resources Ltd and Earth Rights International, Court of Appeal for British Columbia, 21 Nov 2017
All components of this story
Author: Nelson Bennett, Business in Vancouver
In a decision that is likely to have every Canadian mining and oil and gas company that operates in a developing country sitting up and taking notes, the BC Supreme Court today ruled that a civil action brought by three Eritrean workers against Vancouver’s Nevsun Resources...On October 6, Justice Patrice Abrioux rejected Nevsun’s move to dismiss the case...The ruling may set an important precedent for Canadian companies operating outside of Canada. More than three-quarters of the world’s mining and exploration companies are based in Canada and operate in 100 countries...“The Nevsun case is the first case of this kind against an extractive company that had been operating overseas, in this context, to go forward.”...Canadian courts have jurisdiction to try Canadian companies for alleged criminal acts that occurred in other countries, but have been reluctant to do so...In rejecting Nevsun’s motion to have the action against it dismissed, Abrioux said there was some doubt that the three Eritreans would get a fair trial in Eritrea”...Nevsun said it is studying the court’s decision and considering appealing it.
Author: La Presse Canadienne
Des travailleurs étrangers qui accusent une entreprise établie à Vancouver de crimes contre l'humanité dans une mine en Afrique pourront se faire entendre par le système judiciaire canadien.
La Cour suprême de la Colombie-Britannique a publié un jugement dans lequel elle donne son aval à la poursuite civile intentée par trois réfugiés contre Nevsun Resources Ltd., qui détient une participation majoritaire dans la mine d'or Bisha, en Érythrée…
…[Il s’agit] d'une première. Aucun ressortissant étranger n'avait encore pu intenter de poursuites contre une entreprise canadienne sur des allégations de violations des droits de la personne…
Par communiqué, Nevsun a indiqué qu'elle étudiait le jugement et envisageait la possibilité d'interjeter appel. Selon l'entreprise, le tribunal n'a pas trouvé une seule preuve relativement aux accusations des plaignants, ajoutant que ceux-ci n'ont même pas démontré qu'ils ont travaillé à la mine Bisha…
Author: Centre Canadien pour la Justice Internationale (CCIJ)
La Cour suprême de la Colombie-Britannique a aujourd’hui rejeté la demande de la compagnie vancouvéroise Nevsun Resources de rejeter une poursuite commencée par trois Érythréens alléguant avoir été forcés de travailler à la mine de Bisha, détenue majoritairement par Nevsun.
Cette décision marque la première fois qu’un litige de masse en esclavage moderne sera entendu par une cour canadienne, et la première fois qu’une cour de Colombie-Britannique est amenée à se prononcer sur des violations alléguées de droits humains commises par une compagnie minière à l’étranger…
Le Juge Abrioux a jugé qu’«il y a suffisamment d’éléments de preuve pertinents permettant d’établir l’existence d’un risque réel que les plaignants ne puissent pas obtenir justice en Érythrée. »…
Dans une autre décision inédite, le Juge Abrioux a permis aux plaignants de présenter leurs poursuites contre Nevsun pour crimes contre l’humanité, esclavage, travail forcé et torture. Ceci représente la première fois qu’une cour canadienne reconnait qu’une corporation peut être sujette à une poursuite au civil sur la base de violations alléguées du droit international coutumier…[Fait aussi référence à Hudbay Minerals]
Author: Cliff T. Davis, Nevsun Resources Ltd.
Nevsun Resources Ltd...advises that the British Columbia Supreme Court has refused to permit a claim against Nevsun to proceed as a common law class action. The court did permit the lawsuit by the three named plaintiffs to continue. Today’s court decision addresses only preliminary legal challenges to the action raised by Nevsun. The judgment makes no findings with respect to the plaintiffs’ allegations, including whether any of them were in fact at the Bisha Mine. The judge also emphasized that the case raises novel and complex legal questions, including on international law, which have never before been considered in Canada. Nevsun is studying the court’s decision and considering an appeal of the decision that the action can proceed at all. Nevsun remains confident that its indirect 60%-owned Eritrean subsidiary, Bisha Mining Share Company (“BMSC”) operates the Bisha Mine according to international standards of governance, workplace conditions, health, safety and human rights...BMSC is committed to managing the Bisha Mine in a safe and responsible manner that respects the interests of local communities, workers, stakeholders and the natural environment.
Author: Canadian Centre for International Justice
The Supreme Court of British Columbia today rejected efforts by Vancouver-based Nevsun Resources...to dismiss a lawsuit brought by three Eritrean men who allege they were forced to work at Nevsun’s Bisha Mine. This marks the first time that a mass tort claim for modern slavery will go forward in a Canadian court, and the first time a case against a mining company for alleged abuses in overseas operations has been allowed to proceed in British Columbia. Mr. Justice Patrice Abrioux rejected Nevsun’s position that the case should be dismissed in Canada and instead heard in Eritrea...In another groundbreaking decision, Justice Abrioux determined that claims of crimes against humanity, slavery, forced labour and torture can go forward against Nevsun. It is the first time that a Canadian court has recognized that a corporation can be taken to trial for alleged violations of customary international law...“Nevsun’s Corporate Social Responsibility policy says that the company is unequivocally committed to responsible practices at the Bisha Mine, based on international standards of human rights,”...With this ruling, there are now cases advancing in multiple Canadian jurisdictions against companies accused of responsibility for severe human rights abuses...
Canadian courts review series of claims filed against Canadian mining companies for human rights abuses abroad
Author: Nelson Bennett, Business Vancouver (Canada)
"Wave of foreign lawsuits against local miners hits Canadian courts", 19 Apr 2016
In the coming months, the [British Columbia] BC Supreme Court is expected to decide whether a civil claim against a B.C. company with a mine in Eritrea can be heard in Canada. Three former Eritrean mine workers claim Nevsun Resources Ltd...was complicit in the Eritrean government’s use of conscripted labour and other human rights abuses at the company’s Bisha mine...The Nevsun claim is one of three that have been launched against Canadian mining companies since 2014...The...claims are part of a recent trend of Canadian mining companies operating abroad being taken to court in Canada by litigants who claim they cannot get justice in their own countries...According to...[Canadian Centre for International Justice] CCIJ, Canadian mining companies have operated for too many years with impunity in countries with lax environmental and human rights standards...The recent claims...have prompted renewed calls from Liberal MP John McKay for a Canadian ombudsperson that would investigate complaints about Canadian extraction companies operating abroad.....
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- Related in-depth areas: Latest Legal News
- Related companies: Chevron Hudbay Minerals Nevsun Skye Resources (part of HudBay) Tahoe Resources
Report alleges Nevsun Resources uses conscripted labour at its Eritrean mine; includes company's comments
Author: Lisa Mayor & Andrew Culbert, CBC News (Canada)
"Allegations of conscripted labour in Canadian mine: the fifth estate"
A Vancouver-based mining company that struck gold in the small East African country of Eritrea is being accused in a B.C. lawsuit of permitting forced labour to be used in the construction of its mine. The allegations filed by three former Eritrean conscripts in B.C.'s Supreme Court accuse Nevsun Resources of being "an accomplice to the use of forced labour, crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses at the Bisha mine.
- Related stories: Nevsun lawsuit (re Bisha mine, Eritrea) Video documentary claims Nevsun Resources uses conscripted labour in its Eritrean mine, includes company's comments
- Related in-depth areas: Latest Legal News
- Related companies: Nevsun
Nevsun releases new report on Eritrean operations, refuting forced labour findings in June 2015 UN report
Author: Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press
"Canada's Nevsun defends Eritrea mining after damning UN report", 4 Sep 2015
Canadian mining company Nevsun Resources is defending its operations in Eritrea following a damning report by the United Nations that accused the miner of using forced labour in the North African country. Nevsun released an updated independent human rights report this week that found no evidence of forced labour or human rights violations at its 60-per-cent-owned Bisha mine in Eritrea…The report by LKL International Consulting is in contrast to June's UN report, which said Nevsun used forced labour at the Bisha mine after the company was required to hire government-owned contractors that included Segen Construction…Todd Romaine, vice-president of corporate social responsibility at Nevsun, said in an email that the company's operations help Eritrea in its ongoing development. He added that Nevsun is optimistic that well-paying jobs like those in the mining sector can help stem migration.
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...
- Related stories: Nevsun lawsuit (re Bisha mine, 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...
- Related stories: Eritrea: UN report alleges forced labour at Nevsun mines Nevsun lawsuit (re Bisha mine, Eritrea)
- Related companies: Nevsun