Gemfields Group’s Mozambican ruby operation said attackers torched its vehicle, less than a month after 11 people died when parts of a mine pit they had forcefully accessed collapsed on them.
A “large group” ambushed the truck on February 22 with pickaxes, injuring at least three workers and a security contractor, Montepuez Ruby Mining said in an emailed statement. This attack follows the incident at the beginning of February when more than 800 people invaded the operation, leading to almost a dozen people dying at one of the pits, according to the company.
Montepuez, the world’s richest known ruby deposit, is located in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province. It’s one of the country’s poorest regions and has many unemployed young people. The mine has faced incursions in the past, and Gemfields last year agreed to pay 5.8 million pounds ($7.5 million) to families around the operation who complained of human rights abuses by security contractors and the police.
There is “a dramatic and coordinated increase in the number of artisanal miners entering MRM’s concession,” according to the company in which Gemfields holds 75% stake. The raiders include women and children, making it difficult for the security officers to repel them, according to the company.
Cabo Delgado is also home to nearly $60 billion in liquefied natural gas projects that companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Total SA are developing. Hundreds of people have died in a separate wave of attacks that started over two years ago with Islamic State claiming at least a dozen raids since June. More than 100 000 have been forced to flee their homes, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
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