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 .