TORONTO — A group of 11 women from Guatemala is suing a Canadian company and its subsidiaries, claiming $55 million for alleged gang rapes in 2007 during efforts to clear people from lands near a mining project.
The suit alleges the women were attacked by security personnel from Compania Guatemalteca de Niquel, along with members of the police and military who were forcibly removing families from a community near a mine.
The Guatemalan subsidiary CGN and its corporate parents are accused of negligence in the supervision of the security personnel and in a request for the forced evictions of the Mayan community of Lote Ocho.
At the time of the events, CGN’s parent was HMI Nickel Inc. which was later acquired by HudBay Minerals Inc. The suit says HudBay is “vicariously liable” for its subsidiaries’ actions.
“The defendants knew, or should have known, that there was a serious and high risk that more extreme forms of violence would be used during the eviction of remote communities where human rights violations would not be observed or reported to the outside world,” a statement of claim filed with the Ontario Superior Court said.
“The defendants knew, or should have known, that private security personnel in Guatemala continue to employ the violent tactics that were used during the Guatemalan civil war.”
The allegations have yet to be proven in court.
The suit alleges some attackers wore the uniforms of the Guatemalan subsidiary of HMI Nickel, formerly called Skye Resources. HudBay acquired Skye and its Fenix nickel project in Guatemala in August 2008, about 18 months after the alleged rapes occurred.
HudBay was not immediately available comment.
The suit seeks $11 million in general damages and $44 million in punitive damages.
The lawsuit filed Monday is not the first in connection with the project in Guatemala.
Angelica Choc, who is one of the alleged rape victims, has sued HMI and HudBay for negligence in an Ontario court over the 2009 death of her husband, Adolfo Ich Chaman. That case alleges he was beaten and shot by security forces at the mining project.
In addition to its operations in Guatemala, HudBay holds a variety of assets that include gold, zinc, copper mines, concentrators and metal production facilities. Its main mining operations are in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
It also owns a zinc oxide production facility in Ontario and a copper refinery in Michigan.