Sunday, July 7, 2024

London Gold Body Faces Trial Over Tanzanian Miners’ Deaths

London— The families of John and Peter, pseudonyms for two young Tanzanian artisanal miners killed while prospecting for gold at the North Mara Gold Mine, are seeking justice through the British legal system. The High Court in London has taken up their lawsuit against the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), alleging that the organization wrongfully certified gold from the Tanzanian mine as being free from serious human rights abuses. This lawsuit comes almost five years after the two men were killed in separate incidents of alleged police violence at the mine.

The LBMA, which oversees the world’s largest gold market, is responsible for maintaining responsible sourcing standards. The lawsuit contends that the LBMA’s certification of gold from North Mara was inappropriate given the serious human rights violations reported at the mine. Swiss refineries, including those in the MKS PAMP SA group, rely on the LBMA’s certification for the international trading of gold and silver bars.

“The precedent that would be set by this case is huge,” said Glen Mpufane, director of mining at IndustriALL Global Union in Geneva. “This case goes beyond the usual greenwashing and reputational risk of certification schemes. It brings legal accountability and access to remedy for artisanal small-scale mining. The ripples of this case will go through the mining industry.”

The British law firm Leigh Day filed the case in December 2022 on behalf of the families of the two miners killed in 2019 at the North Mara Gold Mine. The mine is majority-owned by Canadian multinational Barrick Gold Corporation, one of the world’s largest gold mining companies. Significant amounts of gold from the mine have been refined by Swiss refinery MKS PAMP and its India subsidiary MMTC-PAMP.

Initially, the LBMA objected to the case being heard in the UK and pushed for it to be held in Tanzania. However, on June 14, the association conceded the initial jurisdictional dispute, allowing the case to proceed in Britain. In Tanzania, the families of the miners would not be able to afford legal representation, whereas in the UK, a legal firm can take their case on a no-win, no-fee basis, a modality that does not exist in Tanzania, explains Leigh Day.

The outcome of this case could significantly impact the mining industry, potentially setting a legal precedent for accountability and raising the standards for human rights compliance in gold sourcing.

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