Artisanal miners hunt for rubies by a small dam near Gemfields's ruby mine in Mozambique, June 14 2018. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ MATTHEW HILL
Artisanal miners hunt for rubies by a small dam near Gemfields's ruby mine in Mozambique, June 14 2018. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ MATTHEW HILL

British mining group Gemfields says it will pay £5.8m in compensation to nearly 300 artisanal miners over accusations of abuse at a ruby mine in Mozambique, but denied liability. 

In a class-action suit Gemfields was accused of hiring police and private security officials who were involved in the alleged torture and death of some residents in the company’s concession area, as well as destroying their property, to force them to leave.

The London-based Leigh Day firm said the suit brought by 273 miners is to be settled with the payout, worth €6.7m including the claimants’ legal expenses.

“Gemfields … has agreed, on a no-admission-of-liability basis, the settlement of all claims brought by English law firm Leigh Day on behalf of individuals living in the vicinity of Montepuez Ruby Mining Limitada’s (MRM) mining concession in northern Mozambique,” the mining company said in a statement sent to AFP.

Gemfields denied any wrongdoing but said it “recognised that, in the past, instances of violence have occurred on and around the MRM licence area, both before and after Gemfields’ arrival in Montepuez”.

Gemfields is a majority shareholder of MRM, which won the mining rights to 36,000ha of ruby-rich land in Mozambique in 2011.

The agreement also provides for an agricultural development and training project, as well as a mechanism for resolving conflicts between MRM and local residents.

The plaintiffs’ law firm, which prides itself on waging “David and Goliath” legal battles pitting individuals against corporations and governments, hailed the settlement, saying it would “provide significant redress to our clients”.

“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 said.

Mozambique, whose economy is heavily dependent on foreign aid, now accounts for 80% of global ruby production.

AFP