TORONTO (Reuters) - A Canadian court ruled on Thursday that a lawsuit against Tahoe Resources Inc filed by Guatemalan men who claim to have been shot by the miner’s private security guards can proceed in British Columbia, according to a copy of the judgment seen by Reuters.
The decision by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia, which reverses a 2015 provincial Supreme Court ruling, said that Vancouver-based Tahoe had not proven Guatemala was a more appropriate forum for the case.
The case is being closely watched by Canadian miners that operate abroad because it could increase litigation risk.
Seven Guatemalan men allege in a civil lawsuit that security personnel hired by Tahoe opened fire on them in April 2013 during a protest outside the Escobal silver mine in southeastern Guatemala. The men say they were injured during the shooting as they attempted to flee.
The men, whose suit was filed in June 2014, are seeking unspecified punitive and compensation damages against Tahoe.
Tahoe maintains its position that Guatemala is the appropriate jurisdiction to hear the case, it said in a statement, adding that Thursday’s ruling does not impact its current operations in the Central American country.
The company said that it will decide whether to appeal the ruling after reviewing the decision, and plans to defend itself regardless of the jurisdiction.
Two other miners are facing legal challenges in Canadian courts.
A suit against Nevsun Resources, by Eritreans who say they were forced to work at the company’s Bisha mine, is proceeding in British Columbia and three lawsuits against HudBay Minerals also alleging abuses in Guatemala are moving to trial in Toronto.
“We’re thrilled with the result today,” said lawyer Matt Eisenbrandt, a member of the Guatemalan men’s legal team, with the Canadian Centre for International Justice.
“This is an important statement by the Court of Appeal that British Columbia is the appropriate place for a case to be heard against a B.C. mining company ... (and) making sure that Canadian courts are open to those who have been victims of alleged abuses in overseas mining operations.”
Tahoe, which has mines in Guatemala, Peru and Ontario, acquired Canada’s Lake Shore Gold for some C$751 million in February 2016 and Rio Alto Mining for about C$1.4 billion in 2015.
Its Escobal mine is operated by subsidiary Minera San Rafael.
Reporting by Susan Taylor; editing by Alan Crosby, G Crosse