TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – A group of 11 Guatemalan women on Monday filed a $55-million lawsuit in Ontario against TSX-listed HudBay Minerals for alleged gang rapes by the company’s security forces during evictions that took place during 2007.
HudBay said on Tuesday the lawsuit was “the first and only account of these shocking accusations” it had received, and that the allegations conflicted with the information the company had. HudBay would defend itself “vigorously” against them, the firm said.
The women, led by Rosa Elbira Coc Ich and represented by Toronto law firm Klippensteins, said they were gang raped by mining company security personnel, police and military during the eviction of Mayan Q’eqchi’ families from their farms and homes in the Lote Ocho community.
The alleged events took place in the areas surrounding HudBay’s Fenix nickel project, which it acquired through its purchase of Skye Resources in 2008.
In December, another Guatemalan, Angelica Choc, brought a C$12-million lawsuit against HudBay in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for the death of her husband in 2009, claiming the company’s security guards at Fenix shot him dead.
Klippensteins is also representing Choc.
In a statement, Klippensteins said none of its clients in Monday’s lawsuit were aware that HMI Nickel, what was then called Skye, had taken “reasonable steps...to protect the community against the violence that was the predictable result”.
“Nine men came into my house and raped me. They were police, soldiers and security men from the company,” said Coc.
HudBay spokesperson John Vincic said that while the company did not own the Fenix project at the time, “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.”
“Since acquiring an interest in the Fenix nickel project in late 2008, HudBay and its subsidiaries have been committed to resolving the ongoing issue of illegal land occupations through peaceful and constructive dialogue,” Vincic added.
Klippensteins said in a statement that the group of Guatemalan women approached a Canadian court, partly because of what it dubbed the “abysmal and hopeless track record” of Guatemala’s court system.
HudBay CEO David Garofalo said earlier this month that the company was seeking partners to develop the Fenix project, for which it had concluded a feasibility study at the start of 2011.