MAC: Mines and Communities

Victims of gang-rape in Guatemala sue Canadian mining company

Published by MAC on 2011-04-04
Source: Statement, The Canadian Press

Rosa Elbira Coc Ich and ten other indigenous Mayan Q'eqchi' women filed a lawsuit against Canadian mining companies HMI Nickel and its corporate owner HudBay Minerals, regarding mining-related gang-rapes suffered by them in Guatemala.

HudBay and its subsidiaries are also being sued for the death of Adolfo Ich Chamán, who was hacked and shot to death by private security forces employed by the company in Guatemala on September 27th 2009.

See previous MAC post: Canadian Miner Being Sued for Violent Death of Community Leader


Victims of Gang-Rape in Guatemala Announce Lawsuit Against Canadian
Mining Company

Press Release

28 March 2011

Toronto, Canada and El Estor, Guatemala: Rosa Elbira Coc Ich and ten other indigenous Mayan Q'eqchi' women filed a lawsuit today against Canadian mining companies HMI Nickel, and its corporate owner, HudBay Minerals, regarding mining-related gang-rapes suffered by them near a Canadian-owned mining site in Guatemala.

On January 17, 2007, the eleven women were gang-raped by mining company security personnel, police and military during the forceful expulsion of Mayan Q'eqchi' families from their farms and homes in the community of "Lote Ocho". These armed evictions were sought by HMI Nickel in relation to its Fenix mining project, located on the north shores of Lake Izabal, Guatemala.

The lawsuit, filed in HudBay and HMI Nickel's home jurisdiction of Ontario, claims $11 million in general damages and $44 million in punitive damages.

HMI Nickel was previously known as Skye Resources. All shares of HMI Nickel were purchased by HudBay Minerals in 2008. HMI is currently a wholly-owned and controlled subsidiary of HudBay Minerals. HudBay Minerals did not own HMI Nickel at the time of the assaults.

"Nine men came into my house and raped me," said Rosa Coc. "They were police, soldiers and security men from the company. They left me just completely battered and bruised." Rosa and others have said that, at the time of the attacks, some of their assailants wore uniforms bearing the initials and logo of HMI Nickel's Guatemalan subsidiary, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel (CGN).

At the time of the rapes, HMI Nickel maintained control of operations at the Fenix Project from its head offices in Canada. In public relations statements made in Canada, HMI Nickel promised that security personnel at the Fenix mine would abide by specific international standards regarding the screening, conduct, training, and supervision of security personnel engaged at their mining project. Ian Austin, the then-President and CEO of HMI Nickel, stated to Canadian investors that all activities related to the evictions would be carried out by personnel who had been specially trained to avoid violence.

Despite HMI's public promises, HMI Nickel and CGN took aggressive action against Mayan Q'qechi' communities living on land related to the mining project by immediately seeking the forced expulsion of these communities. The plaintiffs are not aware of any evidence that indicates that HMI Nickel took reasonable steps to implement the promised international security standards or to protect the community against the violence that was the predictable result.

The gap between what was happening on the ground and what was being said by company executives is shocking. On the very day that men wearing uniforms bearing CGN logos were committing gang-rape during the eviction of a community as requested by his company, the CEO of HMI Nickel released a public letter in Canada that stated: "[t]he company did everything in its power to ensure that the evictions were carried out in the best possible manner while respecting human rights."

No investigation or prosecution for these crimes has been initiated in Guatemala.

Rosa and the others are seeking justice in Canada in part because of the abysmal and hopeless track record of Guatemala's justice system. Human Rights Watch noted in January 2011 that "there was 99.75 percent impunity for violent crime as of 2009," meaning that virtually all violent crime goes unpunished. The report goes on to say that "[v]iolence against women is a chronic problem in Guatemala, and most perpetrators are never brought to trial."

"We remain traumatized by the attack," said Rosa. "Not just myself but the entire community."

The claim represents assertions that have not yet been proven in court. All defendants will have the opportunity to respond in these proceedings.

For more information, see:

Barristers & Solicitors
Murray Klippenstein, Tel: 1-416-598-0288

HudBay to investigate gang rape allegations

The Canadian Press

29 March 2011

Toronto-based HudBay Minerals Inc. said Tuesday that it will investigate allegations that security personnel, along with members of the police and military, attacked and gang-raped several women in 2007 during efforts to clear people from lands near a mining project in Guatemala.

However, the company said the accusations in a $55-million lawsuit against the company and a subsidiary contradict available information and that it would defend itself "vigorously against them."

"HudBay and its subsidiaries are disturbed by the serious nature of the allegations, which run counter to our values and the manner in which we operate," the company said in a statement.

"We will investigate the allegations but they are counter to all of the available information we have regarding the events of January 2007 and as such we intend to defend ourselves vigorously against them."

A group of 11 women from Guatemala have sued the Canadian company and its subsidiaries in an Ontario court. They are seeking $11 million in general damages and $44 million in punitive damages for the alleged gang rapes in 2007.

The suit alleges the women were attacked by security personnel from Compania Guatemalteca de Niquel, along with members of the police and military who were forcibly removing families from a community near a mine.

Allegations unproven in court

The Guatemalan subsidiary, CGN, and its corporate parents are accused of negligence in the supervision of the security personnel and in a request for the forced evictions of the Mayan community of Lote Ocho.

The allegations have yet to be proven in court.

At the time of the events, CGN's parent was HMI Nickel Inc. which was later acquired by HudBay Minerals Inc. The suit says HudBay is "vicariously liable" for its subsidiaries' actions.

"The alleged events predate HudBay Minerals' business interests and operations in Guatemala, and we are not aware that they have ever been reported to Guatemala law enforcement or other authorities," the company said.

"Official government accounts indicate that substantial effort was made to keep the evictions non-violent and, in accordance with Guatemalan law, the evictions were carried out by unarmed police officers."

The suit alleges some attackers wore the uniforms of the Guatemalan subsidiary of HMI Nickel, formerly called Skye Resources.

HudBay acquired Skye and its Fenix nickel project in Guatemala in August 2008, about 18 months after the alleged rapes occurred.

The lawsuit filed Monday is not the first in connection with the project in Guatemala.

Angelica Choc sued HMI and HudBay for negligence in an Ontario court over the 2009 death of her husband, Adolfo Ich Chaman. That case alleges he was beaten and shot by security forces at the mining project.

In addition to its operations in Guatemala, HudBay holds a variety of assets that include gold, zinc and copper mines, along with concentrators and metal production facilities. Its main mining operations are in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

It also owns a zinc oxide production facility in Ontario and a copper refinery in Michigan.

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