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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:
- "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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Tous les éléments de cette histoire

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Auteur: 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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Auteur: 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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Article
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Auteur: Mark Anderson, Guardian (UK)

"Western firms reduce Eritrean miners to 'abject slavery', UK MPs say", 19 Dec 2014

Western mining companies operating in Eritrea are reducing workers to “abject slavery” at their mines…a group of British MPs has said…The bill “notes with concern the collusion between the government of Eritrea and the international mining companies from the UK, Canada and Australia, which is using the forced labour of Eritreans for work in extractive industries in conditions which have been described as abject slavery”. MPs called on the Eritrean government to allow Sheila Keetharuth, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, to travel to the country and assess claims of widespread rights violations. Keetharuth has not been allowed to enter the secretive country since her appointment in 2012… Last month, three Eritrean refugees filed a lawsuit against Nevsun in a Canadian court over allegations that they were forced to work at the company’s Bisha mine against their will…

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Article
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Auteur: Michael Kourabas, TriplePundit (USA)

"Canadian Mining Companies and Corporate Accountability", 5 Jan 2015

Canadian multinationals beware: Your home and native land may now be the forum of choice for plaintiffs seeking to bring international human rights lawsuits…The Nevsun litigation follows a series of other high-profile human rights cases filed in Canada by foreign plaintiffs against international mining companies…Commentators have suggested that the 2013 Hudbay ruling [that the case could proceed to trial in Canadian court] could help plaintiffs in the Tahoe and Nevsun cases, and potentially open the door to other cases against Canadian companies accused of committing human rights abuses overseas. This is particularly important because the door appears to be closing to foreign plaintiffs elsewhere in the world…[Also refers to HudBay Minerals, Tahoe Resources]

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Article
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Auteur: 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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Auteur: 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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Article
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Auteur: 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.

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Article
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Auteur: 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.

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Article
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Auteur: 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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Auteur: Justice Abrioux, Supreme Court of British Columbia

The plaintiffs, who are refugees from the State of Eritrea which is located in East Africa, make allegations of the most serious nature against the defendant Nevsun...The proceeding raises issues of transnational law being the term used for the convergence of customary international law and private claims for human rights redresses and which include: (a) whether claims for damages arising out of the alleged breach of jus cogens or peremptory norms of customary international law such as forced labour and torture may form the basis of a civil proceeding in British Columbia; (b) the potential corporate liability for alleged breaches of both private and customary international law.  This in turn raises issues of corporate immunity and whether the act of state doctrine raises a complete defence to the plaintiffs’ claims...Nevsun has not established that Eritrea is the appropriate forum.  Accordingly the action will proceed in this Court...

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