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Petra Diamonds pays £4.3m to Tanzanians ‘abused’ by its contractors

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The British mining company Petra Diamonds has agreed to pay £4.3m in compensation to dozens of Tanzanians who allegedly suffered serious human rights abuses at a mine famed for producing a flawless pink diamond for one of the Queen’s favourite brooches.

The 71 Tanzanian claimants, represented in the London high court by the British law firm Leigh Day, alleged grave violations by the company, among them being shot, beaten, stabbed, assaulted, detained in cramped and filthy holding cells, and handcuffed to hospital beds.

The abuses were allegedly carried out by security personnel contracted by Petra’s local subsidiary, Williamson Diamonds Ltd, which has a majority share of the mine, and by Tanzanian police who worked at and around the mine.

Ten of the claims were brought by family members of illegal diggers allegedly killed at the mine in Shinyanga, one of Tanzania’s poorest regions. An additional 25 claims are being investigated as part of the settlement, which could increase the total payout.

In a statement, the London Stock Exchange-listed company, which says it is an “ethical diamond seller”, noted that it had appointed a new security contractor, closed the on-site lock-up where the UK corporate watchdog Rights and Accountability in Development (Raid) claimed to have found evidence that local residents had been detained and beaten, and launched an independent grievance mechanism to resolve future complaints transparently and quickly. The company said it would also fund community projects and establish a medical support programme.

Related: Mine that produced Queen's diamond investigates claims of abuses by guards

“Petra acknowledges that past incidents have taken place that regrettably resulted in the loss of life, injury and the mistreatment of illegal diggers,” the statement said. “The agreement reached with the claimants, combined with the other actions put in place, are aimed at providing redress and preventing the possibility of future incidents.” Petra had agreed the settlement on the basis of “no admission of liability”, it said.

George Joseph Bwisige, leader of a group seeking compensation for abuses at the mine, said: “I have been waiting a long time for Petra Diamonds to recognise what its operations did to me and fellow members of my community.”

Anneke Van Woudenberg, executive director of Raid, said: “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.”

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