Petra Diamonds has reached a settlement on human rights abuse claims at its Williamson Mine in Mwadui, Shinyanga and agreed to pay 4.3 million UK pounds (some 14bn/-).
The settlement was made after UK-based law firm Leigh Day had filed a lawsuit last year on behalf of 71 individuals alleging to have suffered serious human rights abuses associated with third-party security operations, at the Mine and the police.
Petra said in the statement issued Wednesday that the settlement includes the sum to be distributed to the claimants by Leigh Day, and a contribution to the claimants’ legal expenses.
Petra’s Non-Executive Chairman Peter Hill said the company was deeply concerned and saddened by the allegations and 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,” Mr Hill said.
The statement said the settlement also include significant funds that firm has committed to invest in programmes dedicated to providing long-term sustainable support to the communities living around the mine.
The mine is operated by Williamson Diamonds, which is 25% owned by the government and 75% by Petra.
The agreement also includes a framework pursuant to which an additional payment will be made by Petra in respect of up to 25 additional potential claimants who have come forward during the final stages of the settlement negotiations.
Following its investigation, Petra acknowledges that past incidents have taken place that regrettably resulted in the loss of life, injury and the mistreatment of illegal diggers, within the mining area.
The incidents in question involved Williamson’s third-party security provider Zenith Security as well as the Police Force.
However, the statement said during the investigation, “no evidence emerged” that Williamson personnel were directly involved in these actions.
Petra, which has repeatedly denied the involvement of its own employees in the incidents, formed in February an internal committee to oversee new accusations of abuses at the mine.
That committee concluded that “regrettable” incidents did take place at the mine in the past, which resulted in “the loss of life, injury and the mistreatment of illegal diggers” within the mining license, it said in a separate statement.
The settlement came shortly after UK-based corporate watchdog RAID published a report that included dozens of eyewitness accounts on how security guards employed at Williamson allegedly abused their power.
Among the testimonies, a former guard said rubber projectiles were intentionally swapped with metal bullets in their weapons, causing “serious harm” to local residents shot on Petra’s concession.