Gemfields on the alert after attacks by insurgents edge closer to Montepuez mine

A military convoy of South Africa National Defence Forces (SANDF) rides along a dirt road in the Maringanha district in Pemba on August 5, 2021. - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc is rallying behind neighbouring Mozambique, sending troops to battle jihadists wreaking havoc in the gas-rich north and posing a threat to other countries. Regional giant South Africa announced on July 28 it would deploy 1500 to fight the terrorist insurgency that has left more than 3,000 people dead and halted Africa's biggest private investment yet. (Photo by Alfredo Zuniga / AFP) (Photo by ALFREDO ZUNIGA/AFP via Getty Images)

GEMFIELDS today warned shareholders that insurgency-related attacks had edged closer to the firm’s Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique.

The latest was in the Muaja village which is about 30km by road from Montepuez. A previous incident, reported by Gemfields last month, occurred about 65km east-north-east from the mine.

“A large number of people are reportedly relocating to Nanhupo and Namanhumbir, where the mining operations are located,” said Sean Gilbertson, CEO of Gemfields. “Given recent developments and the associated security review, operations continue with increased vigilance,” he added.

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, two employees of Grafex Limitada, a subsidiary of Australian company Triton Minerals which owns the Ancuabe Graphite Project in Mozambique, were murdered in events related to insurgents.

Violence at MRM would be an unwelcome turn of fortune’s wheel following a massive improvement in the performance of the company lately.

In March, it declared a maiden dividend of 1.7 US cents (about 25 South African cents) for the year to end December 2021 after what Gilbertson described as an “annus mirabilis” following the dreadful events of 2020 where Gemfields was forced to warn shareholders over threats to its “going concern” status.

The group generated a record $118.1m in free cash flow during financial 2021 and reported a taxed profit of $64.9m after losing $93.2 in 2020. Gemfields transformed the balance sheet taking net debt of $12.6m in 2020 to net cash of $62.9m at the end of 2021.