- May 12, 2021

UK-listed company, Petra Diamonds, today bowed to pressure and agreed to settle the claims of 71 Tanzanian nationals who suffered human rights abuses at its Williamson Mine in Tanzania, paying a total of £4.3 million in a wide-ranging compensation package. It follows years of efforts by local residents and activists to end the abusive practices. A further 25 claims are being investigated as part of the settlement, which could increase the total payout.

The claimants include residents of nearby communities who were shot, beaten, stabbed, assaulted, detained in a filthy and cramped holding cell by the mine’s entrance, and handcuffed to hospital beds by security personnel employed at the mine. The victims were represented by the British human rights law firm Leigh Day. The settlement should enable survivors to access much-needed medical care.

“I have been waiting a long time for Petra Diamonds to recognise what its operations did to me and fellow members of my community. We hope the company’s practices will change for good and that we will never return to security guards thinking they can just shoot, kill and beat us," said George Joseph Bwisige, a local activist.

In a press release and a further statement to the market, the company said that it had “acted decisively to hold individuals to account” and that the mine “is committed to cooperating with the relevant prosecuting authorities” in relation to abuses. It said disciplinary action had been taken and that certain employees had left, or would be leaving, the company. The company also said it had appointed a new security contractor and closed the on-site detention facility where RAID had found evidence that many local residents had been detained and beaten.

The company said “we all regret the loss of life, the injuries and mistreatment” and that it was allocating funds for community projects to include enhanced community medical support, access to the concession to collect firewood and graze livestock, and a gender-based violence campaign to provide support and counselling for victims. It also said it had launched a company grievance mechanism where local residents could bring complaints which would “be managed by an independent panel and operate according to the highest international standards.”

After admitting failures in escalating abuses to the Board over many years, the company said it was committed to putting in place new oversight and escalation procedures. RAID urges Petra Diamonds to ensure its reporting is public, truly independent and comprehensive to stop abuses from occurring in the future.

“Public exposure and legal action by courageous Tanzanian citizens has forced Petra Diamonds to face up to the dreadful human rights abuses at its Williamson Mine," said Anneke Van Woudenberg. Executive Director at UK corporate watchdog, RAID. "But to ensure there is no repeat of the company’s harmful practices, Petra Diamonds should  allow effective independent monitoring of the security and human rights situation going forward. Without this, it will be hard to have faith that the company has truly changed its ways.”

RAID’s in-depth investigation detailing the abuses

In November 2020, after 14 months of research, corporate watchdog RAID further exposed the human rights abuses at the Williamson Mine in a detailed report. RAID found that guards from private security contractor, Zenith Security, operating under the supervision of Williamson Mine employees, were directly implicated in many of the abuses. RAID also revealed that security guards at the mine had deliberately swapped rubber projectiles in their weapons with metal shot, to inflict greater harm on local residents. The company’s statement confirmed this practice.

Following RAID’s documenting of the abuses and Leigh Day’s filing of the legal action, Petra Diamonds initiated its own investigation, the outcome of which was announced today.

“Despite years of local activism and widespread reports about the abuses at its Williamson Mine, Petra Diamonds failed to take action. Only after the detailed investigation by RAID and legal action by British human rights lawyers did it publicly respond to the dreadful security-related practices at its mine,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg. “Petra Diamonds should also provide remedy to victims who may not yet have come forward and ensure there is rigorous monitoring of its security operations to prevent any more abuses from occurring.”

Petra Diamonds' ethical claims undermined

One of the largest industrial diamond mining companies, Petra Diamonds was, until recently, on the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE4Good Index, ostensibly for companies that demonstrate robust environmental, social and governance (ESG) measures. Petra Diamonds is also a member of the Natural Diamond Council, an association of leading diamond producers, which says it promotes the “highest standards of integrity and responsibility”.

Today’s statement and actions taken by Petra Diamonds indicate that the company recognizes its security operations at the Williamson Mine were not compliant with human rights or international standards, and required a drastic overhaul. It is in sharp contrast to the company’s earlier policy statements claiming, “Not only do we respect human rights, but we actively advance them.”

“Petra Diamonds’ ethical claims have been exposed as nothing more than window dressing to promote its diamonds,” said Van Woudenberg. “ESG investors and others who have backed Petra Diamonds and believed the company’s ethical claims should look long and hard at why their vetting practices failed to identify this empty rhetoric and ask questions about what they might be missing at other companies who make similar ethical claims.”

Notes to editors:

The Williamson Mine began operations in the 1940s. It is known for its rare pink diamonds, of which the most famous is the Williamson Pink, a diamond given to Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth on her wedding by the mine’s Canadian founder, John Williamson. It was set into a brooch which the Queen still often wears.

Petra Diamonds has had a tumultuous few years. In June 2020, it put itself up for sale due to an overwhelming debt load. In October 2020, the company announced it was concluding its formal sales process, having reached a restructuring agreement in principle with its major debtholders including Bank of America, Monarch Alternative Capital and Franklin Templeton, amongst others. The restructuring, which provided for a debt for equity swap, meaning dilution of the stakes held by Petra’s shareholders, concluded on 10 March 2021. 

RAID wrote to Petra Diamonds’ Board of Directors ahead of publication of its statement today stressing the importance of transparency and urging for ongoing independent oversight of the company’s commitments on human rights. The letter can be found here.

For more information, please see:

  • The full report, “The Deadly Cost of ‘Ethical’ Diamonds” – click here and for video click here.
  • See all of our work on Petra Diamonds on RAID’s website – click here.
  • The statement from Leigh Day can be found here.
  • Petra Diamonds' statements are here and here.