Petra Diamonds reaches $6m settlement on human rights abuse claims

Petra says its Williamson mine has been the target of illegal artisanal miners “for some time” due to challenges in securing the large perimeter of the license area. (Image courtesy of RAID.)

Petra Diamonds (LON: PDL) has reached a £4.3 million (about $6m) settlement with claimants that alleged widespread human rights abuses, including beatings and detentions, at the company’s Williamson mine in Tanzania.

UK-based law firm Leigh Day had filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of 71 individuals alleging to have suffered serious human rights abuses by security personnel employed or contracted at the diamond mine, as well as by police who work at and around the site.

Petra, which has repeatedly denied the involvement of its own employees in the incidents, formed in February an internal committee to oversee new accusations of abuses at the mine.

That committee concluded that “regrettable” incidents did take place at the mine in the past, which resulted in “the loss of life, injury and the mistreatment of illegal diggers” within the mining license, it said in a separate statement.

Shortly after, UK-based corporate watchdog RAID published a report that included dozens of eyewitness accounts on how security guards employed at Williamson allegedly abused their power.

Among the testimonies, a former guard said rubber projectiles were intentionally swapped with metal bullets in their weapons, causing “serious harm” to local residents shot on Petra’s concession.

While rubber bullets can cause serious injury, even kill, they are not supposed to penetrate, whereas “the gun pellets can enter someone’s body and stay there,” the guard told RAID. “Someone would need an operation to remove them, and if they are close to the gun, they can definitely cause death.”

Security challenges

The Africa-focused diamond producer has said the mine had been the target of illegal artisanal miners “for some time” due to challenges in securing the large perimeter of the license area.

“This illegal mining activity is managed by the mine operator Williamson Diamond Limited (WDL) and the local government authorities on an ongoing basis,” Petra said at the time.

Petra has dealt with the incursion of illegal miners at its operations before. Last year, it opened up some of its Koffiefontein mine’s tailings in South Africa to small scale miners. The move aimed at tackling illegal activities and solved some issues caused by artisanal miners at the asset.

It previously carried out a similar exercise at Kimberley, in Northern Cape, where small scale miners operated “the floors” of the property — an area previously worked by Kimberley’s founding miners. The project, kicked off in 2017, was not a success. Its then joint venture partner, Ekapa Mining, reported a year later it was still spending R3 million (about $180,000) a month in security. Petra sold its stake in the Ekapa partnership in 2018.

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