South African miner Petra Diamonds is paying 4.3 million pounds (about $6.1 million) to settle claims that security forces at its Williamson mine in Tanzania acted violently against illegal diggers, resulting in at least 41 injuries and 7 deaths.
The settlement includes funds that will be distributed to 71 anonymous claimants by the British firm Leigh Day, a contribution to the claimants’ legal expenses, and commitments from Petra to invest in further development around the mine.
Petra has also instituted a new grievance procedure, overseen by an independent committee, that will allow for quick resolution of any disputes.
In an investigation, the company acknowledged that its third-party security provider, Zenith, and the Tanzanian police force were involved in incidents that “regrettably resulted in the loss of life, injury, and the mistreatment of illegal diggers.”
Petra has said that it is seeking a new security contractor. The mine is 75% owned by Petra, and 25% owned by the government of Tanzania.
The settlement contains no admission of liability, and the company said it had no direct involvement in the events. It said in a statement that concluding the case “avoids contesting protracted and expensive litigation where, even if Petra prevailed, it is unlikely that its own legal costs would have been recoverable.”
Peter Hill, non-executive chairman of Petra Diamonds Ltd., added that his company “regrets the loss of life, injury, and mistreatment that appears to have taken place around the mine. The agreement reached with the claimants, combined with the other actions put in place, are aimed at providing redress and preventing the possibility of future incidents.”
But Anneke Van Woudenberg, executive director of RAID, an NGO that detailed many of the abuses in a November 2020 report, said in a statement that Petra’s actions show that the company “recognizes its security operations at the Williamson mine were not compliant with human rights or international standards, and required a drastic overhaul.”
“Despite years of local activism and widespread reports about the abuses at its Williamson mine, Petra Diamonds failed to take action,” she said. “Only after the detailed investigation by RAID and legal action by British human rights lawyers did it publicly respond to the dreadful security-related practices at its mine. Petra Diamonds should also provide remedy to victims who may not yet have come forward and ensure there is rigorous monitoring of its security operations to prevent any more abuses from occurring.”
In a letter to Petra’s board, Van Woudenberg said it will take time for Petra to “build up confidence with the local community” and called for more independent oversight.
In 2019, Leigh Day got colored gemstone miner Gemfields to pay $7.6 million on behalf of 273 claimants to settle allegations of human rights abuses around its Montepuez Ruby Mining concession in northern Mozambique.
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