Events and Special Reports

Petra agrees to settlement over human rights abuses claims

Petra agrees to settlement over human rights abuses claims
Mining News Pro - A settlement has been agreed with diamond miner Petra Diamonds following claims of serious human rights abuses at its majority-owned Williamson diamond mine in Tanzania.

Law firm Leigh Day has agreed the settlement on behalf of 71 claimants who allege that they suffered serious human rights abuses by security personnel employed or contracted by the Williamson mine and by police who work at and around the Williamson mine.

Petra has denied the involvement of employees of Williamson Diamonds.

Ten of the claims were brought by the families of those who are alleged to have been killed at the mine.

The claims were issued in the High Court in London against Petra, and its majority-owned Tanzanian subsidiary, Williamson Diamonds in February and July 2020.

Following productive negotiations between the parties, the settlement includes wide-ranging measures that benefit the victims and the wider communities near the mine.

As part of the settlement agreement, Petra will pay financial compensation to the 71 victims. The sums in question remain confidential and have not been disclosed.

Financial training and support in accessing medical assistance will also be provided to the victims.

Moreover, a fund has been set up to fund a spectrum of restorative justice measures, aimed at providing economic development for communities close to the Williamson diamond mine over a three-year period.

The projects will be selected following a community assessment process. The projects will potentially include an artisanal mining project at the mine and an agricultural business initiative.

The value of the fund will be in addition to Petra and its subsidiary’s existing corporate social responsibility budget.

Petra will also develop a medical support programme to assist the wider community, with a focus on providing assistance to victims of human rights violations at the mine.

The medical support project will include physiotherapy and rehabilitation services, psychological support and outreach schemes. Satellite services will act in concert with the hospital to bring medical screening closer to local communities.

Measures will also be put in place to allow local residents to access certain parts of the mine to collect firewood and/or for animal grazing.

Provision has been made for up to 25 further claims to be fully investigated and added to the cohort. A substantive framework for the valuation of the second cohort of claims has been agreed as part of the settlement process.

Further, an independent operational-level grievance mechanism (OGM) has been agreed and the aim is to develop and implement it within a year.

The OGM will be compliant with United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

It is intended to allow any future complaints of personal injury, sexual violence, false imprisonment and other human rights abuses at and around the mine to be resolved fairly, locally, transparently and quickly.

An independent monitor will observe and publicly report on the OGM on a sixth-monthly basis. If the OGM does not function as agreed, Leigh Day retains the right to offer legal representation to those with valid grievances, the law firm notes.

In the spirit of transparency and cooperation, the companies will disclose, to complainants and their legal advisers, all documents held in relation to their cases, including medical records stored at Mwadui Hospital.

The companies have also agreed to embed, within two months, a nonharassment and victimisation policy to safeguard victims and human rights defenders against future harm or intimidation.

Leigh Day says it understands that Petra will publicly state the steps it will take to ensure accountability of the perpetrators of these serious human rights abuses, including the nature of their ongoing cooperation with the relevant prosecuting authorities.

Petra is also expected to explain the measures it will take to improve the monitoring and accountability of its security forces in the future, the firm notes.

In a separate statement, Petra says it had issued the findings of its independent board subcommittee in relation to the alleged breaches of human rights at the Williamson mine.

It says it has sought to gain a full understanding of the allegations through an external investigation.

Based on the conclusions of the independent board subcommittee, Petra acknowledges that past incidents have taken place that regrettably resulted in the loss of life, injury and the mistreatment of illegal miners within the mining licence area.

The incidents in question involved third-party security provider Zenith Security, as well as the Tanzanian Police Force, it states.

During the investigation, no evidence emerged that Petra or Williamson Diamonds’ personnel were directly involved in these actions, Petra adds.

It says it took immediate precautionary measures to address the concerns raised, ahead of the findings of the investigation and to mitigate the risk of future incidents.

Petra has, therefore, agreed to the settlement, on a no admission of liability basis, in relation to claims brought by Leigh Day on behalf of claimants, in relation to alleged breaches of human rights, associated with third-party security operations.

It states that the agreed total settlement figure is £4.3-million, which includes the sum to be distributed to the claimants by Leigh Day, a contribution to the claimants’ legal expenses and funds that will be invested in programmes dedicated to providing long-term sustainable support to the communities living around the mine.

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