Tonkolili Iron Ore lawsuit (re complicity in violence against villagers in Sierra Leone)
In 2015, 142 villagers from Sierra Leone filed a lawsuit in UK High Court against the mining firm Tonkolili Iron Ore Ltd. And its parent company African Minerals, alleging complicity in police crackdowns in Sierra Leone in 2010 and 2012. 101 claims were settled, leaving 41 left to proceed in court. In 2018, the UK High Court ruled African Minerals was not liable.
On 30 November 2015, the law firm Leigh Day filed a lawsuit in the UK High Court on behalf of 142 villagers against the mining firm Tonkolili Iron Ore Ltd and its parent company African Minerals, alleging complicity in police crackdowns in Sierra Leone in 2010 and 2012. In 2010, the villagers protested against the clearing of farmland to facilitate the mining operations. In 2012, mine workers organized a strike protesting against working conditions at the mine site. The lawsuit claims that the company encouraged the police to use violence to quell protests on these two occasions. Allegations include the company’s complicity and direct involvement in assault, false imprisonment, rape and murder. The plaintiffs claim compensation for injuries, loss and damage allegedly caused during the two incidents.
The company denied responsibility for police actions and claimed that UK court lacked jurisdiction over events taking place in Sierra Leone. However, the Court agreed to hear the case based on the fact that Tonkolili Iron Ore is a former subsidiary of the UK-based African Minerals.
By January 2017, 101 claims were settled, leaving 41 left to proceed in court. In October 2017, Leigh Day requested anonymity for six claimants' witnesses. On 29 January 2018, the court agreed to grant anonymity for security reasons, and the investigation commenced. In February 2018, a UK High Court judge travelled to Sierra Leone to hear the victims who were unable to obtain UK visas.
On 19 December 2018, the UK High Court ruled that African Minerals was not liable.
In March 2020, The Court of Appeal of England and Wales upheld the high Court’s verdict that African Minerals was not liable for complicity in police crackdowns in Sierra Leone in 2010 and 2012 which were linked to the defendant’s iron ore mine. The judge did note that if African Minerals had owed a duty of care, it would have breached it for failing to follow recognised minimum standards set out in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.
UK Mining Firm Accused of Rights Abuses in Sierra Leone, VOA, 19 Feb 2018
Sierra Leone villagers recount abuse in UK mining firm case, news24, 7 Feb 2018
British High Court Judge Adjudicates the African Minerals Case in a Freetown Court!,The Organiser, 3 Feb 2018
UK mining company faces landmark High Court case over alleged worker abuse in Sierra Leone, Independent, 29 Jan 2018
Mining company accused over deadly police crackdown in Sierra Leone, The Guardian, 26 Dec 2017
Villagers in Sierra Leone are suing iron ore mining company African minerals, The Sierra Leone Telegraph, 1 Dec 2015
Sierra Leone villagers sue mining company in London high court, The Guardian, 29 Nov 2015
How Sierra Leonean farmers got their day in Court, Leigh Day, 31 Jan 2018
Landmark High Court case begins over alleged abuses by UK-based mining company in Sierra Leone, Leigh Day, 26 January 2018
Legal Actions Begins at High Court Over Allegations of Abuses in Sierra Leone, Leigh Day, 1 Dec 2015
Kalma et al. v African Minerals et al., High Court of Justice, Queen's bench Division, 19 Dec 2018
Judgement granting anonymity to witnesses - Kalma et al. v African Minerals et al., High Court of Justice, 29 Jan 2018