(Cusco/Ottawa/Toronto) Today, Canadian company, HudBay Minerals held its Annual General Meeting for shareholders virtually, to discuss its financial health and the future for its current and potential operations.
The meeting was kept very narrow and questions were only allowed to be submitted with respect to the motions presented. The focus on financials sheltered shareholders from important concerns being raised by community members affected by the company’s Constancia operations in Peru and the landmark HudBay Minerals lawsuits currently making its way through the Canadian civil court system, both with direct links to people’s health and well-being. These concerns are only being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Guatemala, the Mayan victims of violent attacks in 2007-2009 were given a small glimpse of hope when HudBay President and CEO Peter Kukielski announced in January 2020 that the company was considering a settlement to get the issue “behind them”. Instead, the company decided to appeal the latest decision in the Ontario court, where the company had moved to deny the plaintiffs the option to add more details to their submission. The case, already prolonged by this decision, was then temporarily suspended due to COVID-19, adding to the stress and concerns of the victims who are already suffering due to COVID-19 and are “having a very hard time, with urgent needs for basic necessities.”
During the AGM, the company noted, “In Peru, we are a leader in public health and safety," and “we are providing relief to affected communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Communities, though, appear to have other opinions. In Peru, Indigenous communities continue to suffer the impacts of the Constancia mine, potentially placing them at higher risk in the event of an outbreak. In a video directed at the company’s shareholders, a former leader of the Velille district, which suffers the impacts of dust and noise from the explosions, noted concerns the communities have about a potential outbreak:
“…we are aware that this dust [from explosions] produces respiratory problems which increases the likelihood that we may become susceptible to infections. The Indigenous peoples of Velille who live close to the mining operation we are terrified that we might contract COVID-19 from the 21 workers who tested positive. For this reason, we ask the shareholders of the company: what are you going to do to ensure that our right to health is not impacted by the COVID-19 cases confirmed in your own workforce?”
It appears to be business as usual for Hudbay shareholders as communities and workers are forced to bear the brunt of the pandemic, while mining companies continue their operations. Angela Choc, speaking on behalf of the Choc family and the rape and assault victims, sent a video to shareholders, stating:
“We can understand why our trial has been suspended temporarily due to COVID-19, but HudBay continues its operations in Peru, in Canada. I can’t understand how [HudBay] can continue to do business and put the lives of other people in harm’s way.”
Earlier this month, it was reported that the company had failed to advise local health authorities and communities in Peru of a COVID-19 outbreak at its Constancia mine, where at least 21 workers have now tested positive for the virus.
“At a time when the world is talking about the implications of a global pandemic, Hudbay is pushing forward with “business as usual” while communities in Peru and Guatemala bear the burdens of its actions, affecting their health and well-being for many years to come,” said Kirsten Francescone of MiningWatch Canada.
The company’s business update did not include any references to the COVID-19 outbreak at Constancia, instead saying that they have resumed operations normally following the go ahead from the Peruvian government, last week.
Similarly, there was no reference to the ongoing lawsuit and the notice to appeal.