Two indigenous Guatemalan women stood quietly in front of a Toronto courthouse on Tuesday morning, surrounded by a scrum that included a filmmaking crew, lawyers, media and a gaggle of other people.
On a crowded city street during rush hour, the women drew little notice from passersby but their case is being closely followed by the mining sector and beyond.
Both women, Irma Yolanda Choc Cac and Angelica Choc, had travelled from a remote part of eastern Guatemala, to continue pressing legal claims that Hudbay Minerals Inc., one of Canada’s oldest mining companies, bears liability for rape, violence and other human rights abuses that took place more than a decade ago when their village was razed to make way for the Fenix nickel mine.
Their lawsuit, originally filed in 2011, ties into a trend of increasing scrutiny of Canadian mining and exploration companies’ overseas activity. In its wake, other plaintiffs sued at least two other mining companies under the same novel legal theory, which accuses the mining companies of negligence.
“I’m assuming any chance of resolving anything between these parties has long since left the building,” the presiding case management master, Michael McGraw, who functions like a judge, said near the start of the hearing on Tuesday.