Precious gemstones miner Gemfields has chosen to pay £5.8 million (about $7.8m) to community members residing near its Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique, in a “no admission of liability” move that settles a claim of human rights abuses brought against it by locals.
Leigh Day, the London-based law firm representing a group of 273 Mozambicans, argued last year that security forces employed by the miner had shot, beat and subjected its clients to humiliating treatment and sexual abuse.
Gemfields, which describes itself as “a leading supplier of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones,” always maintained it was not liable for the alleged incidents, but has taken the view that the agreed settlement “best balances the interests of the assorted stakeholders” and avoids tainting the company’s relationship with sections of the local community, the company said in a statement.
“We wish to ensure that we are regarded as trusted and transparent partners … rather than legal adversaries,” chief executive Sean Gilbertson said of the relationship with the Montepuez community going forward.
“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,” Leigh Day partner, Daniel Leader, commented.
Early last year, the company put up a voluntary announcement in which it acknowledged that, in the past, instances of violence had occurred on and around the licence area, “both before and after Gemfields’ arrival in Montepuez.”
In addition to the settlement amount, the company is setting up an independent operational grievance mechanism to enable community members to lodge complaints more easily. It has also committed to creating a new agricultural development and training fund of at least £500,000, or $659,000 at current exchange rates.
The coloured gems miner, which owns the luxury Fabergé jewellery brand, is the operator and 75%-owner of the Montepuez open pit ruby mine, through its subsidiary Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM).
It also owns the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia and holds controlling interests in various other gemstone mining and prospecting licences in African countries, including Ethiopia and Madagascar.