Precious gemstones miner Gemfields has chosen to pay £5.8 million (about $7.8m) to community members residing near its Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique, in a “no admission of liability” move that settles a claim of human rights abuses brought against it by locals.
Leigh Day, the London-based law firm representing a group of 273 Mozambicans, argued last year that security forces employed by the miner had shot, beat and subjected to humiliating treatment and sexual abuse to its clients.
Gemfields, which describes itself as “a leading supplier of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones”, always maintained it was not liable for the alleged incidents, but it has taken the view that the agreed settlement “best balances the interests of the assorted stakeholders” and avoids tainting the company's relationship with sections of the local community, it said in a statement.
Sum will cover Leigh Day’s legal expenses and be distributed to the claimants represented by the London-based law firm.
“We wish to ensure that we are regarded as trusted and transparent partners … rather than legal adversaries,” chief executive Sean Gilbertson said of the relationship with the Montepuez community going forward.
“These incidents should never have happened. However, we commend Gemfields for engaging constructively to resolve this case promptly and for putting in place an independent grievance mechanism,” Leigh Day partner, Daniel Leader, commented.
Early last year, the company put up a voluntary announcement in which it acknowledged that, in the past, instances of violence had occurred on and around the licence area, "both before and after Gemfields' arrival in Montepuez".
In addition to the settlement amount, the company is setting up an independent operational grievance mechanism to enable community members to lodge complaints more easily. It has also committed to creating a new...