Gemfields, a leading supplier of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones, has been advised that a UK-based law firm has filed a claim containing serious allegations against the company and its subsidiary, Montepuez Ruby Mining Limitada (MRM). The claim is filed in the High Court of England and Wales on behalf of 29 individuals living on or around the MRM ruby mining licence in northern Mozambique.
Gemfields has long pioneered new levels of transparency in the coloured gemstone sector. In upholding our commitment to transparency, we have voluntarily elected to issue this statement.
The claim alleges that Gemfields and MRM are liable for human rights abuses including the deaths and mistreatment of artisanal miners and the seizure of land without due process. Those acts are, in many instances, alleged by the law firm to have involved the Mozambican police and/or other Mozambican government forces, for which the claim seeks to hold Gemfields and MRM liable.
Gemfields and MRM take allegations of this nature extremely seriously and denounce any form of violence or abuse. MRM provides human rights training meeting the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights to both employees and service providers, in addition to offering this training voluntarily to the Mozambican police and government forces. MRM frequently hosts and welcomes tours of its operations by international and local press, government officials, non-government bodies, gemstone researchers and customers seeking to assess practices at their source of supply.
The law firm, Leigh Day, is well known for bringing claims of this nature and for leveraging adverse media coverage. A number of the allegations seem to be recycled from media coverage in 2015 and 2016, including by the Mail & Guardian, which the South African Press Ombudsman ruled was “inaccurate, false and damaging”, ordering that an apology be issued.
To date, the claim filed by Leigh Day has not been served on Gemfields or MRM, meaning that the court process has not commenced. Instead, Leigh Day has indicated its interest in exploring alternative resolution of the claim on behalf of its clients. Should the claim be served, Gemfields and MRM would vigorously defend themselves against the claim, whether in the English courts or otherwise.
We recognise that in the past instances of violence have occurred on and off the MRM licence area, both before and after our arrival in Montepuez. These have often been between rival groups of artisanal miners and their handlers competing for control of territory, or involving security forces, typically in preserving the safety and wellbeing of employees, service providers and members of the local community. However, where such incidents have occurred, including instances involving our own employees, MRM has taken decisive and appropriate steps, working closely with the authorities, including providing humanitarian assistance to artisanal miners and community members.
Gemfields and MRM routinely seek ongoing improvement in practices, policies and procedures. We are confident that we have and will continue to set new benchmarks in our sector, particularly in relation to transparency, health & safety, environmental management, training, community affairs, human rights practices, payment of taxes and reporting of production and financial performance.
We are working with our legal advisors in England and Mozambique to ensure that the claim, despite the limited details provided to date, is fully examined and also to defend robustly our hard-earned reputation as a leading supplier of responsibly sourced coloured gemstones.