Ecuadorans in court over Canadian mine

Date of publication: 
25 March 2010

Three Ecuadoran villagers were in a Toronto court Thursday, trying to preserve their lawsuit against a Vancouver-based copper mining company.

Villagers filed a $1 billion human rights lawsuit last year against Copper Mesa Mining Corp., two of its directors and the Toronto Stock Exchange.

They accuse the company of hiring armed security forces that have intimidated, threatened and assaulted villagers who have complained the proposed open pit mine would destroy the delicate habitat surrounding their cloud forest community.

The lawsuit claims getting a listing on the TSX allowed the company to raise more than $10 million – money used, in part, to hire security.

The lawsuit’s allegations have not been tested in court and if the defendants have their way, they won’t ever be. The TSX and the company say the suit should be dismissed now before it gets to trial. The company has said its business practices are ethical and responsible.

It’s not clear when a ruling on the dismissal motion will be made.

The CBC’s Ron Charles reports that the Ecuadoran government has withdrawn the company’s mining concessions and no copper has been mined.

Copper Mesa’s shares were delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange in February.

The villagers say their lawsuit is meant to shine a spotlight on the Canadian mining industry and how it lacks accountability in its dealings with local people in many rural areas of Central and South America.

The three villagers will speak about the lawsuit and the issues it raises at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., on Saturday.

The House of Commons is considering a private member’s bill (C-300) that sets environmental and human rights standards for Canadian oil, gas, and mining companies that get government support and operate in foreign jurisdictions.