Peters & Peters

Mining company Nevsun settles landmark human rights law suit by former labourers


Key facts:

Nevsun Resources Ltd is a Canadian metal exploration and mining company which is the majority owner of the Bisha gold, copper and zinc mine in Eritrea. In November 2014, three Eritreans filed a claim in Canada against Nevsun (on behalf of themselves and more than 1,000 other individuals), alleging that they had been conscripted to work in the Bisha Mine against their will by the Eritrean military service, and that they had been subjected to violent, cruel and inhuman treatment during this time. The plaintiffs claimed damages for breaches of international law and domestic tort law.

Nevsun denied the allegations and applied to have the case dismissed. This application was rejected by the Supreme Court of British Colombia, and Nevsun’s appeal was rejected by the British Colombia Court of Appeal. Nevsun appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada gave judgment in February 2020. It dismissed the appeal and ruled that the claim could proceed to trial. In doing so, the Supreme Court held that a private corporation may be liable under Canadian law for breaches of international law in other countries.

In October 2020, the charity Amnesty International reported that Nevsun had settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed but “significant” amount.


Business & Human Rights Resource Centre news release and Canadian Supreme Court decision

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