Canada-based mining company Nevsun Resources has been sued by three previous employees at the British Columbia Supreme Court for alleged slave labour at its Bisha gold, copper and zinc mine in western Eritrea.

The civil lawsuit claimed that the company was complicit in forced labour, slavery, torture and crimes against humanity.

The plaintiffs stated that they, along with other workers, had been made to carry out construction work at the mine against their will and with little pay.

"The mere act of doing business with a government that is as reprehensible as Eritrea’s is morally repugnant." 

Bisha mine is majority owned (60%) and operated by Bisha Mining Share Company (BMSC), which is a subsidiary of Nevsun. The Eritrean Government hold the remaining 40% of the property.

The three complainants, Gize Yebeyo, Kesete Tekle Fshazion and Mihretab Yemane Tekle, are now residing in Canada as refugees.

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They told Business Vancouver: "The mine was built using forced labour, a form of slavery, obtained from the plaintiffs and others coercively and under threat of torture by the Eritrean Government and its contracting arms."

Co-counsel for the plaintiffs Dimitri Lascaris said: "In my view, the mere act of doing business with a government that is as reprehensible as Eritrea’s is morally repugnant.

"No ethical corporation would seek to profit from a relationship with such a repressive regime."

Another co-counsel for the plantiff, Joe Fiorante, QC said: "However, they are determined to ensure that the company that profits from this mine pays for the human costs involved in building it."