Canadian HudBay could face Guatemalan lawsuits at home

Canadian HudBay Minerals Inc. (TSX:HBM) may soon face a number of lawsuits at home for alleged violence at a Guatemalan mine owned by a subsidiary after an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled the mining company can be held accountable on Canadian soil.

The decision, considered by the plaintiffs as a precedent-setting case, cleared the way for 13 Guatemalans to sue HudBay Minerals over shootings and rapes allegedly carried on by the firm’s security personnel in the Central American country between 2007 and 2009.

"As a result of this ruling, Canadian mining corporations can no longer hide behind their legal corporate structure to abdicate responsibility for human rights abuses that take place at foreign mines under their control at various locations throughout the world," said Murray Klippenstein, lawyer for the 13 indigenous Mayans in a press release.

This is the second significant legal victory for the Guatemalan group this year. In February, Hudbay decided to drop its argument that the lawsuit against it should be heard in Guatemala, not Canada, after fighting tooth and nail over this issue for over a year.

HudBay “vigorously” denies all claims as, it says in the firm’s website, it bought the Fenix nickel mine in 2008 after many of the alleged incidents between the Mayans and the former owner, Compania Guatemalteca de Niquel (CGN), took place.

The Toronto-based miner sold all its Guatemalan assets in 2011 to focus on its projects in Canada and Peru.

HudBay Minerals is not the only Canadian company blamed of abuses in Central America. Fellow miners Tahoe Resources (TSX: THO) (NYSE: TAHO) and Goldcorp (TSX:G) (NYSE:GG) have also faced allegations related to the use of extreme violence to dissolve protest and violation of human rights respectively. However, no other lawsuit of this kind has advanced in Canadian courts.

Image for archive: Guatemalans protest against Tahoe's mining plans by James Rodiguez,