Nevsun lawsuit (re Bisha mine, Eritrea)

Pour la version française de ce profil, cliquez ici.

In November 201Nevsun_mine_Bisha_credit_Nevsun4, 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 on 23 January 2019.

- "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

- "Nevsun Comments on B.C. Lawsuit", 6 Oct 2016
- "Nevsun Comments on B.C. Lawsuit", 21 Nov 2014

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

- Webcast of the hearing before the Supreme Court of Canada, 23 Jan 2019

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      



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14 December 2014

Allegations of forced labour at Eritrean mine are ''unfounded", says Canadian mining firm Nevsun

Author: Mark Anderson, Guardian (UK)

“Eritreans sue Canadian mining firm Nevsun over human rights abuses”, 9 Dec 2014

Three Eritrean refugees have filed a lawsuit against [Nevsun] a Canadian mining firm over claims that it conspired with the Eritrean government to force them…to work at a copper mine for long hours while receiving little pay and living in squalid conditions…Nevsun commissioned an independent report into working conditions…Nevsun’s CEO…said: “We are confident that the allegations…are unfounded. Based on various company-led and third party audits, the Bisha mine has adhered at all times to international standards of governance, workplace conditions, and health and safety. We are committed to ensuring that the Bisha mine is managed in a safe and responsible manner that respects the interests of the local communities, workers...”…[A] Canada-based lawyer…representing the Eritreans, said: “We assert that Nevsun should be held accountable for the tremendous harm suffered not just by the plaintiffs but all those coerced by its local contractor into working at the Bisha mine site.”…[Also refers to HudBay Minerals]


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9 December 2014

Canadian courts increasingly used in litigation to hold companies accountable for human rights abuse abroad, says law firm

Author: H. Scott Fairley & Anastasija Sumakova, WeirFoulds LLP

Canada: Tort Liability At Home For Alleged Wrongs Abroad: The Common Law Goes Extraterritorial?, 2 Dec 2014

…[S]everal recent decisions [in Canada] suggest a new type of extraterritorial tort liability for alleged violations of international human rights in foreign jurisdictions to which Canadian companies…may be exposed…The fact that many of these companies are either based in or have asset-based connections to Canada also suggests that Canadian courts may become a centre for litigation of this kind…What remains to be resolved [for] particular cases such as Hudbay and Tahoe is what legal effect customary international norms have once they are incorporated into domestic law…[I]t remains to be seen whether…international law can support the creation of new causes of action aimed specifically at civil liability for violations of international human rights, and what standard of liability will be applied for those claims…[Also refers to Copper Mesa Mining, Nevsun Resources]

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5 December 2014

Access to justice for victims of human rights abuses needs to be strengthened

Author: Sif Thorgeirsson, Manager, Corporate Legal Accountability Project, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

‘Closing the courtroom door: where can victims of human rights abuse by business find justice?’, 1 Dec 2014

…[M]any victims of business-related human rights abuse have no access to judicial remedy in their home country…The majority of cases of abuse we see at Business & Human Rights Resource Centre occur in weak governance zones, which often do not have an independent judiciary, and sometimes lack fully functioning courts…Of the 108 legal cases the Centre has profiled,…[54%] are related to extraterritorial claims…[but t]he effect [of Kiobel] has been a near-freeze on victims seeking justice through this…avenue. At the time of…Kiobel…, there were at least 19 corporate Alien Tort cases pending in US courts.  Since then, only one new…case has been filed…While the scope for remedy from US and English courts is narrowing…there have been three cases filed in Canadian courts addressing extraterritorial business-related human rights abuse...[and]…cases…have been filed in France, Switzerland and Germany…Concerted action is needed by governments and others to reverse the trend toward closing…avenues to justice…[Also refers to Occidental Petroleum, Cisco Systems, Drummond, Chiquita, Rio Tinto,  Daimler, ExxonMobil, Nestle, CACI, L-3 Titan, Nevsun, Hudbay Minerals and Tahoe Resources]

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28 November 2014

[audio] Interview of lawyer representing plaintiffs in lawsuit against Nevsun over alleged forced labour at Eritrean mine

Author: Dr Russom Mesfun, Asmarino Independent (Eritrea)

“Eritrea: Dr Russom Mesfun Exclusive Interview: James Yap, an attorney representing three Eritreans who are suing Nevsun”, 24 Nov 2014

[An interview with James Yap, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Nevsun Resources regarding the alleged use of forced labour at Nevsun’s Bisha mine in Eritrea. Nevsun, a Canadian mining company, hired Segen Construction, a company that is purportedly linked to Eritrean’s ruling party, to carry out construction work at the gold mine. Segen allegedly used forced labour at the site, including poor pay, long working hours and limited food supplies. The claim aims to provide redress to the victims, who are not able to pursue the Eritrean government because of the state immunity doctrine. Yap added: “There’s certainly some hope…that this is going to…effect some kind of change, whether it involves Nevsun correcting its practices or maybe the regime…correcting its practices and saying we’re not going to use forced labour.” Nevsun has not responded to enquiries about the case, but has issued a statement denying the claims.]

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25 November 2014

New case profile on Canadian lawsuit against Nevsun re alleged complicity in forced labour in Eritrea

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

[Business & Human Rights Resource Centre case profile of lawsuit filed in Canada against Nevsun Resources.  The plaintiffs claim that the company was complicit in the use of forced labour by Nevsun’s local sub-contractor at the Bisha mine in Eritrea.  Nevsun, headquartered in Vancouver, has denied the allegations.]

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Author: Radio-Canada

…[Nevsun Resources] soutient que les allégations de travail forcé à sa mine Bisha en Érythrée…ne sont pas fondées et qu'elle présentera une défense musclée à la poursuite au civil déposée cette semaine en Cour suprême de la Colombie-Britannique…La poursuite allègue que l'entreprise et ses sous-traitants de la mine Bisha ont fait appel à du travail forcé et a commis d'autres crimes contre l'humanité. Les trois anciens employés…allèguent dans une déclaration à la cour qu'ils ont travaillé sous la menace de « punitions corporelles, de torture et d'emprisonnement »…Des audits effectués par l'entreprise et des organismes indépendants indiquent que la mine a toujours respecté les normes internationales pour la santé, la sécurité et les conditions de travail, soutient l'administrateur général de Nevsun Resources…Un des avocats explique que les demandeurs…ont déposé leur poursuite au civil en Colombie-Britannique, car ils croient que c'est le seul endroit où ils ont une chance d'obtenir justice…

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21 November 2014

Nevsun Comments on B.C. Lawsuit

Author: Nevsun Resources

Nevsun Resources Ltd...advises that a lawsuit has been filed against it in the B.C. Supreme Court by three individuals who claim to have once worked with a local sub-contractor at the Bisha Mine in Eritrea. The lawsuit makes human rights allegations against the Company and its local sub-contractor.  The Company denies the allegations and will vigorously defend itself against this claim.  Cliff Davis, Nevsun’s CEO, said, “…the Bisha Mine has adhered at all times to international standards of governance, workplace conditions, and health and safety.  We are committed to ensuring that the Bisha Mine is managed in a safe and responsible manner that respects the interests of the local communities, workers, national governance, stakeholders, and the natural environment.”…

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21 November 2014

Nevsun Denies Accusations of Human-Rights Abuses at Eritrea Mine

Author: Michael Gunn & Firat Kayakiran, Bloomberg

Nevsun Resources Ltd. (NSU), a takeover target which mines gold and copper in Eritrea, is being sued for alleged complicity in human-rights abuses at its operations in the African nation. The company denied the allegations. The suit filed yesterday by three plaintiffs in the Supreme Court of British Columbia claims the Vancouver-based company's Bisha mine was built using "forced" laborers who faced the threat of torture by the Eritrean government, according to the filing. "We are confident that the allegations are unfounded," Nevsun Chief Executive Officer Cliff Davis said in a statement...The lawsuit alleges that by entering a commercial relationship with the Eritrean government, Nevsun "aided, abetted, contributed to and became an accomplice to the use of forced labor, crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses at the Bisha mine."...[Also refers to Segen Construction]

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Author: Centre canadien pour la justice internationale (CCJI)

Trois hommes d'origine érythréenne ont intenté aujourd'hui devant un tribunal à Vancouver une poursuite au civil contre Nevsun Resources...dénonçant la main d'œuvre servile à laquelle la compagnie minière avait recours pour la construction de la mine de Bisha en Érythrée. Les hommes allèguent que l'entrepreneur local engagé par Nevsun, Segen Construction Company...les a forcés à effectuer des travaux en tant qu'ouvriers conscrits à l'emplacement de la mine de Bisha dans des conditions abusives et que Nevsun a expressément ou implicitement autorisé l'utilisation de la main d'œuvre servile. Ils allèguent que cet usage de main d'œuvre forcée est si répandu et inhumain qu'il constitue un crime contre l'humanité...La poursuite allègue que Nevsun savait ou aurait dû savoir...qu'en embauchant Segen pour le projet Bisha elle courrait un risque élevé que son projet minier ait recours à cette même main d'œuvre servile...La poursuite contre Nevsun représente le cinquième cas du genre devant les tribunaux canadiens...

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20 November 2014

Eritreans file lawsuit against Canadian mining company for slave labour and crimes against humanity

Author: Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ)

Three Eritrean men filed a civil a Vancouver court against Nevsun Resources…over the use of slave labour at Nevsun’s Bisha Mine in Eritrea. The men allege that Nevsun’s local contractor, Segen Construction Company,…owned by the Eritrean government’s ruling party, forced them to work on projects at the mine under abhorrent conditions and that Nevsun expressly or implicitly approved the use of slave labour, a practice alleged to be so widespread and inhumane that it constitutes crimes against humanity...The lawsuit alleges that Nevsun knew or should have known that Segen had been implicated in slave labour and that in hiring Segen for the Bisha project – Nevsun’s only operating mine – there was a high risk slave labour would be used...The suit against Nevsun represents the fifth active case of its kind in Canadian courts...It is one of the first human rights lawsuits in Canada to assert claims based directly on international law.


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