Canada’s Nevsun denies claims of human rights abuses at Eritrea mine

Canada’s Nevsun denies claims of human rights abuses at Eritrea mine

Nevsun Resources' Bisha gold and copper mine in Eritrea. (Image courtesy of Nevsun)

Canada’s Nevsun Resources (TSX:NSU), which owns a majority share of the Bisha copper and gold mine in Eritrea, has released an independent report that found no evidence of forced labour or human rights violations the miner was been accused of in a hard-hitting report released by the United Nations last June.

One of the authors of the study, produced by LKL International Consulting, told Canadian Press the UN allegations of forced labour dealt with the construction phase of the mine, while his assessments started after the mine was already operational in 2013.

"I've been able to validate what's been happening 2013 onwards, and I have seen absolutely no evidence of national service workers being used by the different Eritrean contractors," human rights lawyers and co-author of the Nevsun report was quoted as saying.

The Vancouver-based miner has walked down a very rocky path to get its Bisha project off the ground. Back in 2004, Eritrea’s autocratic government kicked all the mining companies out of the country for no apparent reason. They were welcomed back a few months later, and shortly after Nevsun was able to strike a development agreement.

But the company has repeatedly come under fire over the use of conscripted labour since construction of the mine began in 2008. Fingers have pointed mainly to state-owned contractor Segen Construction, said to have used conscripts under harsh working conditions. And while Nevsun was unable to confirm or deny the use of such labour at the site, it did take measures to prevent it from happening in the future.

The use of conscripted labour in Eritrea’s mining sector was first reported by Human Rights Watch in 2013.

Eritrea’s weak economy has become dependent on revenues from its resource sector, which has attracted foreign miners —mainly from Australia, Canada and China— all looking to cash in on untapped mineral reserves.