Diamond miner looking into claims of rights abuses
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JOHANNESBURG - LONDON-listed Petra Diamonds said yesterday that it had launched an independent investigation following allegations of human rights violations at its Williamson mine in Tanzania.
Petra Diamonds, which operates mines in South Africa and Tanzania, told shareholders that UK-based law firm Leigh Day had filed claims in the High Court of England and Wales against Petra and Williamson Diamonds Limited (WDL), the operators of the Williamson diamond mine.
“The claims are understood to have been filed on behalf of 32 anonymous individuals in relation to alleged breaches of human rights at the Williamson mine,” said the group.
The Williamson mine in Tanzania is 75 percent-owned by Petra and 25 percent by the Tanzanian government.
To date the claims filed by Leigh Day had not been served on either Petra or WDL, Petra Diamonds said, adding that in a letter before the claim, Leigh Day had expressed an interest in alternative dispute resolution methods, including mediation.
The group said it took the allegations extremely seriously.
“WDL, as the operator of the mine and owner of the mining concession, is carrying out an investigation. Petra is initiating its own independent investigation,” it said.
Responses would then be provided to the claimants’ lawyers in accordance with the relevant pre-action procedures of the English court, as well as to Raid, a UK-based NGO.
Petra Diamonds said it had very recently received a letter from Raid regarding similar allegations raised by local residents and others relating to actions by WDL, its security contractor and others linked to WDL.
Petra Diamonds has previously disclosed that there had been ongoing illegal artisanal mining taking place at Williamson over a period of time, due to the challenges in securing the large perimeter of the Special Mining Licence area, which covers 30.6km2, including the main 146 hectare ore body, together with alluvial resources.
“This illegal mining activity is managed by WDL and the local government authorities on an ongoing basis,” said the group.
In July, Petra Diamonds said that it was selling its exploration assets in Botswana for $300000 (R5.08million) and a 5percent royalty on future diamond revenues should any of the prospects within the exploration licences be brought into production.
It also announced in June that it had decided to seek offers for the company, or for parts of the business or group assets, amid a battle to manage near-term liquidity risks arising from the unprecedented Covid-19 operating environment.