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Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals Inc. can potentially be held liable for alleged violence at a Guatemalan mine owned by a subsidiary, a Ontario Superior Court judge has ruled in what plaintiffs say is a precedent-setting case.
Madame Justice Carole Brown’s ruling, handed down Monday, means that the claims of 13 Guatemalans can proceed to trial in Canadian courts, according to Murray Klippenstein, lawyer for the plaintiffs.
Mr. Klippenstein had argued that HudBay itself can be held liable for alleged negligence in the case, alleging that HudBay executives made decisions for its subsidiary regarding security at the mine, relations with local indigenous people and the “forced evictions” of Mayan protestors claiming the mine is theirs.
Lawsuits were launched against HudBay after clashes that pitted protestors against security details at the Fenix nickel mine in 2007 and 2009. The allegations have not been proven and HuBay has since sold the mine.
HudBay lawyers, who tried to have the case thrown out, said going ahead with it would be detrimental to the corporate-law principle that parent companies are not liable for the actions of their subsidiaries. They also argue it would open the way to “meritless” cases against other mining firms.
In the Guatemalan lawsuits, one case involved the alleged beating, machete hacking and killing of a local Mayan community leader who voiced opposition to the mine: Adolfo Ich Chaman.
Another man was shot and is confined to a wheelchair. There are also allegations that 11 women were gang raped by men in mine security uniforms.
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