JOHANNESBURG – JSE- and Bermuda-listed Gemfields said on Friday that 11 artisanal miners had died at its Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM) in Mozambique as it returned to the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market following a two-year break.
Gemfields, which owns a 75percent stake in Montepuez, said on Friday that 800 artisanal miners had stormed past security and police in search of rubies.
“These artisanal miners were seeking ruby-bearing gravels and, despite repeated warnings from MRM personnel, commenced undercutting the outer edge of the mining pit. This led to several ground collapse incidents in which 11 artisanal miners died,” the company said.
Gemfields said that the mine was presently clear of artisanal miner, thanks to the greater presence of Mozambicans and that day-to-day operations remained unaffected.
“The company continues to work closely with Mozambican authorities to raise awareness among local communities of the dangers of artisanal mining and to assist in tackling ruby smuggling and reduce the risk to, and exploitation of, vulnerable groups by well-organised syndicates,” said Gemfields.
Commenting on the admission on the AIM, Gemfields chief executive, Sean Gilbertson said the listing on the London market was an important milestone after a decade of growth in the demand and prices for precious coloured gemstones.
“The AIM listing seeks to provide UK, European and international investors with more expedient entry into the precious coloured gemstone market, to improve share trading liquidity and to widen Gemfields’ current investor base,” Gilbertson said.
Gemfields left AIM in July 2017 after a takeover by Pallinghurst Resources. In March 2019, it announced its plan to return to AIM amid a “lack of broker research and share trading liquidity, as well as feedback from shareholders”.
In November, Gemfield’s former board chairperson Brian Gilbertson, father to Sean Gilbertson, stepped down as director and chairperson in anticipation of the company’s AIM listing.
Gilbertson said in November that the process of obtaining the listing had highlighted the father-and-son relationship and was a potential impediment to robust corporate governance.
“By stepping down from the board, the issue is obviated,” the global coloured gemstone producer said.
Gilbertson sr, who is also the former BHP Billiton chief executive, said he had served on the board for more than 12 years and the company had grown from a single “defunct mining pit” into the world’s leading supplier of coloured gemstones.
Gemfields in November announced that Martin Tolcher would take over as chairperson. He was appointed a director in 2008 and served as chairperson of the group’s audit committee.
Gemfields closed 5.94percent higher at R2.14 on the JSE on Friday.