West Africa’s top court ruled on Tuesday that Guinea was responsible for the death of six villagers and the illegal arrest, injury or torture of 15 others during a 2012 protest near an iron ore project owned by Vale (NYSE: VALE) and BSG Resources.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) tribunal found Guinean authorities guilty of violating protesters’ human rights, ordering the state to pay the plaintiffs total damages of 4.56 billion Guinean francs, ($463,000.)
The judge also instructed the state to cover the costs of the lengthy process for both sides.
“For over eight years, the people of Zogota in southern Guinea have been seeking justice for the massacre that devastated their village,” lawyers representing the villagers said in a statement.
Guinean troops raided the community just after midnight on August 4, 2012, arbitrary arresting people, burning homes and stealing personal belongings after several of its members staged a sit-in protesting Vale’s recruiting practices.
They also opened fire, causing the death of six villagers, and reportedly tortured those who survived when in custody.
Vale, the world’s no.1 iron ore producer, has rejected allegations of involvement stating that it had “never undertaken in or supported any acts of violence in Zogota.”
Jonathan G. Kaufman, executive director of Advocates for Community Alternatives, told MINING.COM that the ruling comes as Guinea plans to allow mining in the area again.
He said that Niron Metals, an investment vehicle co-founded and headed by the former Xstrata boss Mick Davis, is linked to BSGR’s founder and owner, the Israeli billionaire Benny Steinmetz.
“The people of Zogota have warned the Guinean government and Niron that they will not permit mining in their territory until they see justice for the massacre. Today’s ruling brings them one step closer to that goal,” Kaufman said.
Niron Metals acquired the rights to the Zogota deposit last year. The asset was part of the licenses BSRG relinquished in Guinea as part of a deal between the magnate and Guinean President Alpha Conde.
The agreement was meant to put an end to a series of issues stemming from the mining license for Simandou awarded to VBG, the company run by BSGR and Vale.