Gemfields says “basic operations” resume following evacuation of Montepuez ruby mine

GEMFIELDS said “basic operations” had resumed at its Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique which had been evacuated last week following an attack on a neighbouring property.

Insurgent-related attacks have occurred throughout the  Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique over the last two to three years. Earlier this year, Gemfields said it was concerned about the proximity of the latest events.

It said today that since the evacuation, Mozambique military personnel and the Mozambique police force had remained on site at Montepuez during which time “key operational personnel” had returned.

“Mining and processing activities are being resumed in phases after giving due consideration to the threat perceptions in the licence area,” the company said today.

“Gemfields and MRM (Montepuez Ruby Mining) hold the health and safety of their employees and contractors as their highest priority. MRM remains on a state of high alert and maintains regular dialogue with government authorities,” it said.

The evacuation and production halt at Montepuez has taken the gloss of events at Gemfields which has rebounded impressively from Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020/21 that almost sent the company into bankruptcy.

Last month, it announced a $15m interim dividend following “sparkling” results which CEO Sean Gilbertson colourfully remarked were akin to pulling “a very well-groomed bunny out of the hat”. It also announced it would seek shareholder approval in the fourth quarter of this calendar year for a $10m buy-back of its shares, which had gained 14% in the previous 12 months.

Shares in Gemfields were unchanged by mid-morning in Johannesburg. The company has lost about 12% in value in the last five days, however.

In March last year about 60,000 people fleeing jihadist attacks in Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique turned up in the vicinity of MRM. The coastal gas town of Palma, about 150km from MRM’s Montepuez mine, had been overwhelmed by jihadist renegades.

In June attacks occurred near Ancuabe, also in Cabo Delgado, but some 65 kilometres “east-north-east” of MRM, said Gemfields. “As such, these attacks are considerably closer to the operations of Montepuez Ruby Mining Limitada,” it said in a statement to the JSE at that time.