Rubies. Picture: ISTOCK
Rubies. Picture: ISTOCK

Pallinghurst is inheriting the full legal onslaught of allegations of human-rights abuses at Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique detailed in court documents lodged in the High Court of Justice in the UK in April.

The charges were levelled at Gemfields and its management for abuses allegedly perpetrated by in-house and state security forces since 2012.

Sean Gilbertson, CEO of Gemfields and the new CEO of Pallinghurst, distanced the company from the allegations by human-rights lawyers Leigh Day in February.

Gemfields declined to comment on Monday, referring to its February responses.

"You never want a situation where someone throws serious human rights allegations at your company," Gilbertson said in February. "We denounce violence and we go to great lengths to ensure that it doesn’t happen."

London-and Johannesburg-listed Pallinghurst Resources bought and delisted the whole of Gemfields from its London listing and has made it the central platform of its mining business.

As a wholly owned business within Pallinghurst, the legal battle in London will now be for it to fight and to clear its name of the damning allegations outlined in the particulars of claim lodged in court in early April.

The particulars, which included a demand for unspecified damages brought on behalf of 112 claimants in Mozambique, alleged killings of family members of four of the claimants, torture, abuse and humiliation at the hands of security employed by the mine and the state.

The allegations revolve around the actions of internal and government security forces to keep artisanal miners off the 35,000 hectare tenement which is held by Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM), a joint venture 75% owned by Gemfields and 25% by a private Mozambican company called Mwiriti.

Included in the claim is a statement from the Mozambique Bar Association’s human rights commission. After investigating it condemned "acts of torture and violence against artisanal miners and members of the communities affected by the MRM mining concession".

There were videos of the abuse of people at the hands of these security forces, the Leigh Day filing said.

These showed people bound to trees and being beaten with thick wooden sticks, lined up in stress positions and being verbally abused.

The Mozambique Bar Association described the scenes as "macabre, degrading and inhuman acts of torture and unprecedented violence".

Leigh Day argued that artisanal miners had been operating in the area since rubies were discovered there in 2009 and developed a working relationship with Mwiriti after it bought the tenements.

"This co-operative approach to dealing with the artisanal miners and local communities that had been in place under Mwiriti changed when Gemfields entered into the joint venture," it said.

seccombea@bdfm.co.za

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