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British Columbia or East Africa? Court to help decide venue of human-rights case

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada will help decide whether a human-rights lawsuit against a Canadian mining company should be heard in British Columbia or Eritrea.

The high court has agreed to hear an appeal by B.C.-based Nevsun Resources (TSX:NSU), which argues the East African country would be the more appropriate forum.

Refugees from Eritrea allege they were forced to work at a gold mine controlled by subsidiaries of Nevsun and Eritrean state companies.

They contend construction of the mine flouted international legal provisions against forced labour, slavery and torture — accusations that have not been tested in court.

Nevsun denies that the company or a subsidiary enlisted the Eritrean military to build the mine or supply labour, and says the refugees behind the court action were not mistreated.

B.C. courts have dismissed Nevsun's attempts to make Eritrea the forum for any proceedings.

An appeal court upheld a judge's ruling that there was a real risk of corruption and unfairness in the Eritrean legal system, while acknowledging the considerable practical difficulties of hearing the claims in British Columbia.

The Canadian Press

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