SOCIAL conditions at Gemfields’ Mozambique ruby mine, Montepuez, deteriorated further over the weekend after artisanal miners damaged mine property and attacked employees.
Citing the company, Reuters said the miners torched a car belonging to the mine and attacked the car’s occupants with pickaxes. Three employees and security contractor were injured in the attack, the company said.
Montepuez is situated in Northern Mozambique in a region that is rife with crime, illegal mining and is home to a nascent Islamist insurgency, according to Reuters. The mine is owned by Gemfields subsidiary, Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM).
Earlier this month, some 800 artisanal miners invaded a pit belonging to MRM in an event in which 11 died after the pit wall collapsed.
“MRM has observed a dramatic and coordinated increase in the number of artisanal miners entering MRM’s concession, including women and children,” the company’s statement, sent to Reuters on Monday, said.
MRM said the artisanal miners are exploited by illegal ruby-smuggling syndicates, and receive only a fraction of the true market value of the rubies they obtain.
In August last year, the company described events that read more like anarchy as invaders – described by Gemfields as “a mob” – looted the sort house at its 75%-owned Ethiopian property which had been overrun by 500 people.
In addition to attacking the sort house, which contained emeralds, the invaders forced police services to abandon the site. The mine was owned by Gemfields subsidiary, Web Gemstone Mining (WGM).
In January, Gemfields chose practicality over a potentially expensive legal process in a “no admission of liability” settlement with attorneys representing community members residing near Montepuez.
The Johannesburg-listed coloured gemstones miner and marketer said it would pay £5.8m to Leigh Day & Co which would be distributed to community members following allegations of violence by mine security in April last year.
Sean Gilbertson, CEO of Gemfields, described the settlement at the time as the best of both worlds in that the company avoided tainting its relationship with the community whilst simultaneously putting an end to further claims by Leigh Day & Co. The agreement also allows for a grievance system using World Bank principles.
Bloomberg News reported in April last year that a group of over 100 Mozambican miners had filed a class action lawsuit against Gemfields, alleging “serious human rights abuses” at Montepuez. Leigh Day said at the time the company’s security team at the mine shot, beat and humiliated miners.