Friday, January 18, 2013

Human Rights Watch Criticizes Eritrea's Mining Sector

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report in January 2013 titled Hear No Evil: Forced Labor and Corporate Responsibility in Eritrea's Mining Sector.  It pointed out that Eritrea's first modern mine, a joint venture between the government and Canadian firm Nevsun Resources, has produced hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of gold. 

HRW argued that the mining company is walking into a potential minefield of human rights problems by risking entanglement in the Eritrean government's program of "forced labor" or national service program.  HRW asserted that the national service program keeps many Eritreans under perpetual government control as conscripts.  At the government's insistence, the mining project engaged Segen Construction Company as a local contractor.  Segen is owned and operated by the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice. 

HRW added that other firms--Australia's South Boulder Mines, Canada's Sunridge Gold, and China's SFECO Group--are moving ahead with plans to develop new mines in Eritrea. 

Girma Asmeron, Eritrea's ambassador to the African Union, responded that the HRW report is a "distortion" of Eritrea's national service program, adding that the the analysis "shows deliberate ignorance."  Asmeron noted that all 18-year old Eritreans do national service, which is designed to protect the nation's security and sovereignty.  His remarks are contained in a Bloomberg article titled Eritrea Slams Group's Report of Forced Labor at Nevsun Mine.

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