Toronto NOW – Toronto mining giant Hudbay goes on trial for alleged gang rapes in Guatemala. The first of three precedent-setting civil suits is being closely watched by a Canadian mining industry that has operated with relative impunity for its human rights abuses abroad.
By Christian Pena.
Members of the Indigenous Maya Qâ’eqchiâ comQâ’eqchiâmunity of El Estor, Guatemala, were in Toronto recently pursuing three separate civil suits against Hudbay Minerals and its subsidiary, CGN, over alleged gang rapes and other human rights abuses at the Canadian company’s former Fenix mine.
The Hudbay cases serve as a significant wake-up call to an industry that could potentially face more risk and liabilities in Canadian courts for violations in foreign countries. One lawsuit alleges the gang rapes of 11 women in January 2007 during forced evictions of members of the Maya community of Lote Ocho at the hands of security personnel, police and military hired by CGN.
A second, filed by Angelica Choc, alleges security forces hired by the company violently hacked with machetes and shot to death Chocâ’s husband, Adolfo Ich, a respected community leader and school teacher who opposed the mine, in 2009. The third, filed by German Chub, alleges CGN’s chief of security shot him at close range in an unprovoked attack, paralyzing him from the chest down. The lawsuits, which are slowly making their way through Ontario Superior Court, are seeking a total of $15 million in compensatory and $64 million in punitive damages.
More than 50 per cent of the world’s publicly listed exploration and mining companies have Canadian headquarters. Canadian mining assets abroad total some $153.2 billion. But until the Hudbay lawsuits were accepted by an Ontario court in 2013, there was little or no recourse for communities adversely affected by the transgressions of Canadian companies operating abroad.