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HudBay Responds to Our Report on its Environmental and Human Rights Track Record

On July 17 MiningWatch received a response from mining company HudBay to our July 10, 2014, news release and brief: Canadian Mining Watchdog Warns Arizonans of HudBay Minerals’ Poor Track Record on Pollution and Human Rights.

In its letter (available here) HudBay provides additional contextual information regarding the concerns we raise about its Manitoba operations and disputes the facts we presented about the violence at the company's former operation in Guatemala.

We find HudBay's version of events  in Guatemala to be unsubstantiated. Hudbay's story of "extraordinary restraint" and "measured response" does not accord with the facts on the ground. HudBay has never explained anywhere how Adolfo Ich ended up with machete blows that nearly severed his arm, a machete wound to the head, and a fatal gunshot wound to his head/throat. Adolfo's killing was brutal and committed at close range. Similarly, Hudbay has never explained anywhere how German Chub ended up paralysed from the chest down with a bullet permanently lodged next to his spine.

Moreover, Hudbay neglects to mention that mine security personnel shot several other community members that day. Seven members of the community suffered shotgun wounds of varying severity, including shotgun wounds to the chest, shoulder, face and extremities.  The youngest victim was 15. In contrast to the shooting of 9 community members, the only significant injury to mine security personnel was some form of hand injury. Mynor Padilla, the head of security for the mine, is currently in jail awaiting trial in Guatemala for the murder of Adolfo Ich and the shooting of German Chub. There are also legal proceedings regarding his role in the shooting of the 7 other community members who were shot by mine security personnel that day. His trial was originally scheduled to begin in April 2013; it has now been postponed until sometime in 2015. On July 22, 204, Mr. Padilla unsuccessfully applied to the court to be let out on bail.

The legal team at Klippensteins and and NGO Rights Action have provided a detailed response to HudBay's version of events here.

Regarding its Manitoba operations, HudBay states that the pollution from the Flin Flon smelter and the inadequate closure of the Spruce Point mine were approved by government regulations and permitting processes. We don't dispute this, but poor environmental standards sanctioned by government are still poor environmental standards and show that CSR commitments to go "beyond compliance" are not to be counted on.

HudBay also references a health study it funded that concluded that years of pollution has little impact on the health of the people in the area. At the time Elaine MacDonald of Ecojustice told the Winnipeg Free Press:

the conclusion that the overall health risk is low doesn't "jive" with the report's actual findings. She said officials shouldn't downplay the significance of chronic exposure to metal contaminants, since no level of lead is safe and health effects can often surface years after exposure.

As a precaution, the health study referred 13% of children tested to physicians to address concerns about blood lead levels.

The letter also says the company seeks constructive engagement and remains hopeful it can find common ground with Mathias Colomb Cree Nation. This is despite the company's continued operations in the face of two stop work orders and an eviction order. The company's statement that these orders do not have any underlying legal authority point to the chasm that exists between its world view and that of the Cree People whose law existed long before HudBay or its predecessor companies existed.