Nevsun Resources: A Tale of Corporate Greed and Duplicity

This is a story about a Canadian mining company that chose to do business with Eritrea. It is a story about corporate greed hiding behind grandiose statements of upholding “liberal democratic values” and being “a source of good for Eritrea.” It is a story about three Eritreans—Gize Yebeyo Araya, Kesete Tekle Fhazion and Mihretab Yemane Tekle—who took on the multinational corporation on behalf of “all conscripts in the National Service Program who worked in the Bisha Mine from 2008 to the present.” [1] It is a story about a corporation that is on the wrong side of history. Here is Part 1.

Part 1: The Two Faces of Nevsun Resources

Nevsun Resources, Ltd. is a Canadian mining company based in Vancouver. According to its website, “Nevsun’s vision is to maximize long term community benefits and shareholder value in the sustainable development of mineral resources – wherever it operates.” Nevsun’s website promotes a company seeped in the values of high safety standards for its workers, human rights, integrity, accountability, and community empowerment. [2]

Cliff T. Davis is the CEO of Nevsun Resources. His bio indicates that he was appointed CEO of the company after having served as Executive VP and Chief Financial Officer since 2002 and CFO from 1994 to 2000. His tenure at Nevsun was interrupted for two years beginning in 2000 to serve as Chairman and CEO of Napier Environmental Technologies, a public chemical manufacturing company. His total compensation as CEO for Nevsun is over six million dollars.

Nevsun’s website differs from many other multinational corporate websites, in that there is a great deal of content dedicated to extolling its “corporate social responsibility.” Why?

Nevsun Mining has been accused by former Eritrean mineworkers of using forced labor from Eritrea’s National Service Program (NSP).

Gize Yebeyo Araya, Kesete Tekle Fshazion and Mihretab Yemane Tekle, have filed a claim against Nevsun Resources, stating that they worked at the mine against their will and were subject to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.  The three plaintiffs say that they were forced to work long hours a lived in constant fear of threats of torture and intimidation.

Nevsun has rejected the allegations as “unfounded.” According to CEO Cliff T. Davis, “the Bisha Mine has adhered at all times to international standards of governance, workplace conditions, and health and safety”.

On the side of the three plaintiffs, however, is the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Commission cited Nevsun’s mine, Bisha Mine, in its 2015 report on human rights absuses in Eritrea. According to the report, Nevsun, in violation of international law, “the Human Rights Commission collected evidence that forced labour occurred in the context of the development and exploitation of the Bisha mine, 150 km west of Asmara, which to date is the only mine in operation in Eritrea.”

The lawsuit filed by the three Eritrean plaintiffs alleges that by entering a commercial relationship with the Eritrean government, Nevsun “aided, abetted, contributed to and became an accomplice to the use of forced labor, crimes against humanity and other human rights abuses at the Bisha mine.”

What is the nature of Nevsun Resources’ relationship with the Government of Eritrea? Is Nevsun’s partnership with the Eritrean Government promoting what CEO Clive T. Davis calls “liberal democratic values,” or aiding, abetting and contributing to human rights abuses against the Eritrean people and crimes against humanity? Is Nevsun Resources accountable for the actions of Segen Construction, the company owned by Eritrea’s ruling party that provides labor for the mine? What is the role of the Canadian Government in enforcing international legal standards of human rights of companies registered in Canada? Is Nevsun Resources undermining Canada’s global reputation as a defender of international human rights? Is Nevsun’s self-promotion of its identity as a socially responsible corporation authentic or a façade to hide behind in the interest of profit?

In Part 2, we look at Nevsun’s corporate identity.

[1] See the case filed against nevsun at http://www.ccij.ca/content/uploads/2015/07/Nevsun-Notice-of-Civil-Claim-Nov-20-2014.pdf

[2] See the Nevsun Resources website at www.nevsun.com

 

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