* Statement comes ahead of human rights report
* Nevsun operates African nation’s only modern mine
* Allegations involve state-managed contractor
Jan 11 (Reuters) - A human rights group will issue a report next week detailing workers’ claims of abuse at a mine owned by Canadian gold miner Nevsun Resources Ltd in the African country of Eritrea.
“The report we’re releasing next week describes the allegations against Nevsun and its contractor in some detail,” said Chris Albin-Lackey, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, on Friday.
The pending report prompted Nevsun to issue a statement expressing regret over allegations that a contractor had used forced labor during the construction of its Bisha gold project.
The Bisha mine is the only modern mining project in the Horn of Africa nation and employs about 1,000 locals.
Shortly after construction started in 2008, claims surfaced that one of the company’s contractors, Segen Construction, was using forced laborers from the country’s national service program.
While Nevsun said it was required to use state-managed Segen for certain construction work, it said the use of conscripted labor at the Bisha site is not permitted.
“The company expresses regret if certain employees of Segen were conscripts four years ago, in the early part of the Bisha Mine’s construction phase,” Nevsun said in a statement.
The company said that it has procedures in place to ensure that all individuals working at the Bisha mine are there of their own free will and are not conscripts.
The gold mine is majority owned by Nevsun and produced some 313,000 ounces of gold in 2012.
The Human Rights Watch report, which details mining-related abuses in Eritrea, will be released on Jan. 15.
Forced conscription of citizens to work without pay for an undetermined period of time is a serious issue in Eritrea. Several hundred refugees cross the border into neighboring Ethiopia each month to escape the practice, the United Nation’s refugee agency said in a report in July 2012.