Sierra Leone: Villagers to appeal judgement on the role of mining company in their forced relocation

Author: Leigh Day, Published on: 22 April 2020

‘Sierra Leone villagers will seek to appeal Tonkolili Iron Ore case at the Supreme Court’ 17 February 2020

A group of 142 claimants from Sierra Leone are taking the legal action against Tonkolili Iron Ore Ltd (formerly a subsidiary of African Minerals Ltd) following claims they faced extreme violence in 2010 and 2012 when a number of villages were taken over by the mining company to expand its operations, forcing hundreds of families to relocate. The villagers tried to stop the company taking over their farms and claim they were met by open fire from police and were subjected to beatings and false imprisonment. One woman claims she was beaten, raped and miscarried as a result of violence by the police in 2010. The legal case argued that Tonkolili was liable for the actions of the police, which they denied.

Allegations have also been heard against the company in relation to its role in the fatal shooting by police of a 24-year-old female, whose uncle is one of the claimants, during a protest over working conditions and pay during the 2012 incident. During the High Court hearing in January and February 2018, the judge, Mr Justice Turner, along with the legal teams for both sides, visited Sierra Leone so that the judge could take evidence from witnesses in person. It was believed to be the first time a UK High Court hearing had travelled to an overseas country in which the human rights abuses are alleged to have taken place by a UK-based company. The High Court dismissed the claims in December 2018 and an appeal was heard by the Court of Appeal on 10 and 11 December 2019.

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Related companies: Tonkolili Iron Ore (part of Shandong Iron & Steel Group)