UPDATE 1-Court finds Eritreans' case against Nevsun can proceed in Canada

Thu Oct 6, 2016 5:45pm EDT
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(Adds Nevsum statement, paragraph 6)

Oct 6 (Reuters) - A Canadian court ruled on Thursday that a lawsuit against Nevsun Resources Ltd by Eritreans who say they were forced to work at the company's Bisha mine can proceed in British Columbia, but not as a single case, according to a copy of the judgment seen by Reuters.

The Vancouver-based miner argued that the case should be dismissed and that any lawsuit should be heard in Eritrea, not Canada, an argument the court rejected.

But the judge granted an application by Nevsun asking the court to find that the case could not continue as a representative action, similar to a class action, noting that the six workers named in the case made slightly different allegations. The Eritreans will need to file separate lawsuits, which could make the case more complex and expensive.

Joe Fiorante, one of the lawyers representing the workers, said he was not concerned about that part of the decision.

"We're reviewing that aspect of the decision but the case will certainly go forward," he said. "This is a big win for us."

Nevsun said it is studying the ruling and considering an appeal of the decision that the action can proceed at all.

If Nevsun loses at trial, the company could be forced to pay compensation for "severe physical and mental pain and suffering."

Nevsun says its mine is a model development. In legal filings, it said the Eritrean military never provided labor to the mine. Even if it did, the company argues, Nevsun was not directly responsible for employing the workers.   Continued...