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Mozambique: UK firm agrees to pay £5.8m to victims of abuse

The United Kingdom mining firm, Gemfields, has agreed to pay £5.8 million to 273 Mozambicans who alleged they were victims of human rights violations at its Montepuez ruby mine in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, APA can report on Wednesday.Gemfields, which is the majority shareholder in Montepuez Ruby Mining Ltd (MRM) has settled the claim on a “no-admission-of-liability basis” and acknowledged that “in the past, instances of violence have occurred on and around the MRM licence area, both before and after Gemfields’ arrival in Montepuez”.

The British legal company Leigh Day, which represented the 273 people in a class action, also recognised that “Gemfields has taken the claimant’s allegations seriously and has been proactive and constructive in addressing the wider issues raised by local communities through this case”.

Last February, Gemfields noted that the claim alleges that Gemfields and MRM are liable for human rights abuses including the deaths and mistreatment of artisanal miners and the seizure of land without due process.

Those acts are, in many instances, alleged by the law firm to have involved the Mozambican police or other Mozambican government forces, for which the claim seeks to hold Gemfields and MRM liable”.

In addition to settling the claim through mediation, Gemfields has agreed to provide half a million pounds to establish further community projects to improve the long-term agricultural productivity and livelihoods of residents of Ntoro and Namucho.

It also agreed to establish an independent grievance mechanism for people to obtain a timely response to complaints.

This will be overseen by international experts.

Gemfields’ chief executive Sean Gilbertson stressed that “we wish to ensure that we are regarded as trusted and transparent partners to members of our local communities, rather than legal adversaries”.

According to Leigh Day’s Daniel Leader, the settlement “provides significant redress to our clients and importantly puts in place a credible and independent mechanism for providing remedy to those we have been unable to represent. 

These incidents should never have happened. However, we commend Gemfields for engaging constructively to resolve this case promptly and for putting in place an independent grievance mechanism”.

Rubies mined by MRM are regularly sold at auction in Singapore.

The most recent auction, in December 2018, raised a record $55.3 million, all of which will be repatriated to Mozambique.

In total, MRM has held eleven ruby auctions raising a total of $462.6 million.

Gemfields holds 75 percent of the shares in MRM.

The remaining 25 percent are owned by the Mozambican company Mwiriti.

Gemfields is now entirely owned by the private equity company Pallinghurst following a successful takeover bid in July 2017.

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