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Court to soon decide fate of case accusing Nevsun of forced labor for Bisha mine

A Canadian court is due to decide in the next few months whether a lawsuit filed by a group of Eritrean former mine workers who claimed they were forced to work in Nevsun Resources Ltd.'s Bisha mine can proceed, Reuters reported Sept. 26.

A group of Canadian lawyers filed the court claim, alleging the Eritreans worked for the Bisha mine between 2008 and 2012 while serving as conscripts for the Eritrean government.

In an affidavit filed last year, Bemnet Negash claimed that he helped build Vancouver-based Nevsun's Bisha mine in the country. The workers worked in harsh conditions, including without access to adequate food, water and shelter, and were paid roughly US$1 per day, according to Reuters.

They were initially conscripted from their home villages as part of a state national service program that the United Nations has compared to slavery, the newswire reported.

Nevsun, which this month said it made its first irst zinc concentrate shipment from Bisha, denied the allegations of human rights violations in its November 2014 press statement on the case.

"We are confident that the allegations are unfounded. Based on various company-led and third-party audits, the Bisha Mine has adhered at all times to international standards of governance, workplace conditions, and health and safety," Cliff Davis, Nevsun’s chief executive officer, was quoted as saying.

"We are committed to ensuring that the Bisha mine is managed in a safe and responsible manner that respects the interests of the local communities, workers, national governance, stakeholders, and the natural environment.”

The Supreme Court of British Columbia will decide on whether the case proceeds soon, Reuters reported.