On July 22, a Canadian court ruled that Hudbay Minerals will stand trial in Canada for violence, including murder and rape, carried out by employees of its former Guatemalan subsidiary, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel S.A. (CGN). The struggle to hold this Canadian mining company responsible for human rights abuses committed abroad began in 2010 when Angelica Choc initiated a lawsuit for the murder of her husband, community leader Adolfo Ich Chamán, by private security guards contracted by CGN.
Today, Hudbay is set to stand trial not only for the murder of Ich Chamán, but also in the shooting of German Chub, and the 2007 gang rape of 11 women by mining security personnel. Angelica Choc, widow of Adolfo Ich, reacted to the court’s decision saying, “Today is a great day for me and all others who brought this lawsuit…. It means everything to us that we can now stand up to Hudbay in Canadian courts to seek justice for what happened to us.”


Angelica Choc filed her case against HudbayMinerals Inc. in December 2010
for the murder of her husband Adolfo Ich Chamán. Photo: Graham Hunt

This historic decision marks the first time a Canadian court will hear a case against a Canadian company for human rights abuses committed at a foreign mine site. It undoubtedly sets a strong precedent for future cases of abuses committed by North American companies operating abroad. In the words of Murray Klippenstein, lawyer for the 13 plaintiffs; “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.”[2] Read the full press release here or visit the Choc v. Hudbay website for more information.

On the heels of the effective suspension of Tahoe Resources’ exploitation license for the Escobal silver mine, Canadian mining giant, Goldcorp, which is also a 40% shareholder in Tahoe’s project, announced the indefinite suspension of its Cerro Blanco gold mine located close to the Guatemala, El Salvador border in the department of Jutiapa. Goldcorp contends that the project was put on hold due to falling metal prices, but that the company is not contemplating its permanent closure.[3]

Earlier this year, members of Breaking the Silence, MiningWatch, the Center for International Environmental Law and other North American organizations traveled to Asunción Mitla, the site of the Cerro Blanco mine, as part of a delegation to investigate the impacts of gold mining on water sources in El Salvador. The delegation reported on their visit to Asunción Mita where they heard firsthand from community representatives about nearby hot springs threatening the project and also community concerns related to the possible environmental impacts of the mine, especially on El Salvadoran water sources.

The Cerro Blanco mine has been the subject of international controversy due to its
potential negative environmental impact on both Guatemalan and El Salvadoran territories.
Photo: http://www.stopesmining.org
During an August 6 press conference the MadreSelva Collective responded to Goldcorp’s announcement stating that closure of Cerro Blanco was the result of “poor planning since the project’s beginning, the bravado of mining companies, and the negligence, incapacity and corruption of a docile Guatemalan government…”[4] It goes on to point out numerous deficiencies in the environmental impact assessment, including a lack of analysis and oversight by the Ministry of Energy and Mines and Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources of the likely impacts of subterranean water high in temperature and arsenic. MadreSelva joins Guatemalan and Salvadoran communities and organizations in calling for the permanent suspension of the mine that includes a detailed and fully funded closure plan in place to address the outstanding negative environmental impacts of the project.
While we have yet to see the outcome of the forthcoming trials against Hudbay Minerals Inc., the  announcement that the company will stand trial in Canada along with the effective suspension of Tahoe Resources’ Escobal silver mine and Goldcorp’s Cerro Blanco gold mine are huge gains for communities defending their life and territory. Furthermore, it is certain these historic advances will serve as examples for future struggles in defense of life and against the extractive mining industry in Guatemala.

[1] Press Advisory: Ontario court rules that lawsuits against Hudbay Minerals regarding shootings, murder and gang-rape at its former mine in Guatemala can proceed to trial in Canada. http://www.chocversushudbay.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/PRESS-ADVISORY-Ontario-Court-rules-claim-can-proceed-to-trial.pdf
[2] idem
 Read the full press release here or visit the Choc v. Hudbay website.
[3] “Goldcorp takes $1.8bn hit on Mexican Peñasquito mine.” http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/23b3a128-f535-11e2-b4f8-00144feabdc0.html
[4] “La Mina Cerro Blanco no se suspende por la baja del precio del oro”. Comunicado, Colectivo MadreSelva. http://www.nisgua.org/Comunicado_cierre_Mina_Cerro_Blanco_60813.pdf