Petra Diamonds has shaken up its board with the appointment of three business veterans as non-executive directors a month after it agreed to pay compensation for dozens of people who allegedly suffered human rights violations at its Tanzanian diamond operation. Photo: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
Petra Diamonds has shaken up its board with the appointment of three business veterans as non-executive directors a month after it agreed to pay compensation for dozens of people who allegedly suffered human rights violations at its Tanzanian diamond operation. Photo: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Petra Diamonds revamps its board, appoints business veterans

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Jul 2, 2021

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UK-HEADQUARTERED Petra Diamonds has shaken up its board with the appointment of business veterans Deborah Gudgeon, Alex Watson and Johannes Bhatt as non-executive directors a month after it agreed to pay compensation for dozens of people who allegedly suffered human rights violations at its Tanzanian diamond operation.

Petra, which mines diamonds at the Williamson mine in Tanzania, and the Cullinan mine outside Pretoria, said it had appointed Gudgeon as chairperson designate of the audit and risk committee. Gudgeon currently serves as the non-executive director and chairs the audit committee of global steel and mining firm Evraz plc.

Petra said it had appointed Watson and Bhatt as non-independent non-executive directors.

Non-executive chairperson Peter Hill said: “I would like to welcome Deborah, Alex, and Johannes to the board of Petra; together they bring a wealth of experience, complementing those of our existing directors, and their appointments leave the board well placed to take the company forward”.

Last month Petra agreed to a settlement of £4.3 million (R85m) over human rights abuse claims at its Williamson Diamond Mine in Tanzania mine. The group said the settlement relating to claims brought by London-based legal firm Leigh Day was reached on a no-admission liability basis. It said the settlement included the sum to be distributed to claimants Leigh Day, a contribution to the claimants’ legal expenses and significant funds, which Petra had committed to invest in programmes dedicated to providing long-term sustainable support to the communities living around the Williamson mine.

Petra’s investigation into the allegations of alleged human rights violations established that there had been 12 confirmed deaths of illegal diggers, with the likely deaths of four others.

It also found evidence of many incidents of aggression on the side of the illegal diggers as security providers at the mine. It said these incidents of aggression sometimes resulted in injury to individuals on both sides, and damage to property and equipment, including vehicles used by the Tanzanian Police Force and Zenith Security. “The company, board and management are greatly saddened and concerned by the findings of the investigation and we all regret the loss of life, the injuries and the mistreatment of illegal diggers that the investigation has found to have taken place,” Hill said last month.

He added that the company had put in actions to reduce the risks of future incidents occurring.

In May 2020, Leigh Day notified Petra that it had issued claim forms in the High Court of England and Wales on behalf of 71 anonymous individuals for alleged breaches of human rights, personal injuries and also deaths suffered at and surrounding the mine arising from the security operations.

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