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DUPLICATE-DO NOT APPROVE HudBay Minerals lawsuits (re nickel mining Fenix project), Guatemala


The Fenix mining Project is located in El Estor in north-eastern Guatemala, which lies at sea level on the shore of Lake Izabal, the country’s largest freshwater lake. Maya Q’eqchi’ communities represent more than 90% of the population.

On 28 March 2011 a group of 11 Guatemalan women filed a lawsuit in a Superior Court in Ontario, Canada, against HudBay Minerals and its subsidiary HMI Nickel Inc. The women alleged that the companies were complicit in the gang rapes suffered by the women at the hands of security personnel hired by the defendant companies. The women claim that the gang rapes occurred in January 2007 during forced evictions of members of the Mayan Q’eqchi’ community living in El Estor. The companies’ nickel mining project – the Fenix project – is located in El Estor. Members of this community have challenged the legitimacy of the mining concession granted for the Fenix project. HudBay Minerals says it will vigorously defend itself against the allegations of rape.

The plaintiffs are part of El Estor’s Mayan Q’eqchi’ community. Most of this community has never accepted the legitimacy of the mining concession and land rights granted by the Guatemalan Government for the Fenix project. The plaintiffs argue that the concession is on their ancestral land and was granted to HudBay without adequately consulting the Q’eqchi’ community. They have protested the development of the project and opposed the removal and resettlement of their homes and community. In 2006, the International Labour Organization ruled that Guatemala had breached international law by granting the Fenix mining concession without first consulting with local Mayan people. The ILO released a report discussing the violation in 2007.

Two related lawsuits seek to hold HudBay Minerals Inc. (TSX:HBM) and a subsidiary responsible for the subsequent killing of community leader Adolfo Ich as a result of a land dispute and the shooting and paralysis of local resident German Chub.

In July 2013, the Canadian courts decided that the three lawsuits will be allowed to proceed in Canada following a ruling that makes it possible for firms to face liability at home for incidents that occur overseas. This may have important implications for Canadian mining companies operating abroad and their accountability and liability in Canada for abuses.

The Toronto-based company bought the Fenix project nickel mine in Guatemala in a corporate takeover of Skye Resources in 2008, but sold it in 2011 to Russian firm Solway Investment Group to focus on its Canadian and Peruvian projects.

Environmental threats include harm to the regions rich biodiversity: To mine nickel, a sulphuric acid would be used. This causes the same problems regarding acid mine drainage and contamination of the (ground)water as the mining of gold. The effluents might be discharged in the ocean or in the Izabal Lake. Some communities complained about exploration drilling which caused an erosion runoff that has damaged and polluted several communities’ drinking water  supplies [1].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:DUPLICATE-DO NOT APPROVE HudBay Minerals lawsuits (re nickel mining Fenix project), Guatemala
State or province:Izabal
Location of conflict:El Estor
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Estor sits on 'world-class nickel reserves' totaling over 40 million tonnes, which would make it viable for over 30 years. Hudbay sold the nickel mining project to the Solway Group, for approximately $170 million. Solway plans to invest up to $1.6 billion over the next 5 years, with the eventual goal of doubling the operation's current production, bringing it to 150,000 tons of ferronickel and 50,000 tons of nickel.

To do so, Solway will requires 60 megawatts (MW) of power to operate the first phase, 135 MW to achieve the goals of the second stage, and up to 250 MW to bring about the third phase of production.

Project area:3,000
Level of Investment:1600000000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:29/03/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Skye Resources Inc. from Canada
HMI Nickel from Canada - subsidiary of HudBay Minerals
Solway Investment Group from Russian Federation
HudBay Minerals Inc. from Canada
International and Finance InstitutionsInternational Labour Organization (ILO) from Switzerland
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Amnesty International, Mining Watch Canada, Rights Action, Association for the Integral Development of El Estor

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Forms of mobilization:Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Street protest/marches
Protests by the community


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Deaths
Potential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Violent targeting of activists
Lawsuits are on-going
Proposal and development of alternatives:Recognition of their land rights
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:In addition to the March 2011 lawsuit filed against HudBay Minerals, a lawsuit was filed in September 2010 by the widow of a Q’eqchi community leader, Ich Chamán, who was severely beaten and shot in 2009 during a protest against the Fenix mine. His widow, Angelina Choc, claims that security guards from the Fenix project violently beat and shot Chamán, who was unarmed, and killed him. (Ms. Choc is also a plaintiff in the March 2011 lawsuit described above.) The plaintiff alleged that HudBay Minerals failed to take adequate precautions to ensure human rights abuses would be not be perpetrated by its security personnel.
On 10 December 2011, another lawsuit was filed against HudBay Minerals in Canada by a survivor of a shooting incident at the Fenix project. The plaintiff, who became paraplegic as a result, alleges that in September of 2009 he was shot at close range in an unprovoked attack by the chief of security for HudBay’s Fenix project.
All three lawsuits are ongoing.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Paley, Dawn (2007). This is what development looks like: Skye Resources and Land Reoccupation in Guatemala.

[1] Esther Vandenbroucke. Environmental and Socio-Economic impacts of mining in Guatemala: The role of local communities and the ecological justice movement

Wiig, Henrik (2008). Promoting Respect for the Collective Rights of the Q’eqchi’Population. An evaluation of AEPDI in El Estor, Guatemala. NIBR Working Paper 2008:102, p20.

Nickel Production in Guatemala

Responde from Hudbay:

Ontario court rules lawsuits may proceed

History of the mine:

More articles are avaialble here:

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Canadian ambassador sued for defaming documentary filmmaker on Estor evictions. Watch the documentary here:

Maria Cuc Choc: communities face violence related to mining in El Estor, Guatemala

Other comments:A Canadian ambassador was also sued for libel in relation to this case. He tried to allege that documentary filmmaker Steven Schnoors images had been taken during the civil war and not during evictions in Estor.

Meta information

Contributor:Elodie Aba
Last update18/08/2019



Police, military and security forces burn homes during a forced eviction for the Fenix nickel mining project, El Estor, Guatemala