Gemfields reveals and denies fresh human rights abuse claims in Mozambique

Infomine

By Cecilia Jamasmie

Pallinghurst Resources’s precious gemstones miner Gemfields is standing up to disturbing allegations of human rights abuses at the company’s Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique, and disclosed it’s now target of a legal claim on behalf of 29 locals.

The company, the world’s top coloured gems producer, accounting for roughly a third of the global supply of emeralds and rubies, revealed that human rights law firm Leigh Day had lodged a claim against the company and its Mozambican operating subsidiary, Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM).

The allegations, said the company, come from individuals living in or around the mine in northern Mozambique, the world’s most lucrative ruby operation. Those claims range, it said, from death and mistreatment of artisanal or unlicensed miners on the property to taking land without due process, often in collusion with security forces in the form of police or military.

The legal action seeks to hold Gemfields liable for alleged police actions against illegal miners, as it was the company who called officers on to Montepuez.

The legal action seeks to hold Gemfields liable for alleged police actions against illegal miners, as it was the company who called officers on to Montepuez.

In the nine years since ruby deposits were first discovered in Montepuez, where the Gemfields concession is located and operated by its 75%-owned subsidiary MRM, locals say they have been forced off their land; armed robberies and violence have soared as speculators have flocked to the area; and a growing number of small-scale miners have been beaten and shot. Some say miners even have been buried alive.

The AIM-listed coloured gems miner, which owns the luxury Fabergé jewellery brand, refutes such accusations.

“Gemfields and MRM take allegations of this nature extremely seriously and denounce any form of violence or abuse,” it said in a press statement. “MRM provides human rights training meeting the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights to both employees and service providers, in addition to offering this training voluntarily to the Mozambican police and government forces,” it noted.

Gemfields added that Leigh Day is well known for bringing claims of this nature and for leveraging adverse media coverage. “A number of the allegations seem to be recycled from media coverage in 2015 and 2016, including by the Mail & Guardian, which the South African Press Ombudsman ruled was ‘inaccurate, false and damaging,’ ordering that an apology be issued,” the company said.

Gemfields acknowledged that instances of violence had occurred on and off the MRM licence area, both before and after its arrival in Montepuez. It said those had often been between rival groups of artisanal miners and their handlers competing for control of territory, or involving security forces, typically in preserving the safety and wellbeing of employees, service providers and members of the local community.

However, where such incidents had occurred, including instances involving its own employees, MRM had taken appropriate steps, said Gemfields, which is the world’s biggest coloured gems producer, accounting for roughly a third of the world’s emeralds and rubies from two mines in Mozambique and Zambia.

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