Tonkolili Iron Ore lawsuit (re complicity in violence against villagers in Sierra Leone)

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 Iron_Mine_Credit_Martin_Tuchscherer_panoramio_via_wikicommonscompany 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.

News:

"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

Leigh Day:

“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

Court documents:

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

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Article
1 December 2015

Legal actions begins at High Court over allegations of abuses in Sierra Leone

Author: Astrid Perry, Leigh Day (UK)

Law firm Leigh Day has confirmed that it is taking High Court legal action in the UK against iron ore producer Tonkolili Iron Ore Ltd (formerly a subsidiary of African Minerals Ltd) following allegations of human rights abuses against workers and villagers living near one of its mines in Sierra Leone.  Leigh Day say their clients' allege that the company, which had its headquarters on Stratton Street in London, was complicit in the false imprisonment, assault and battery, trespass and theft of property.  Allegations have also been levelled against the company in relation to its role in the fatal shooting by police of a 24-year-old female during a protest over working conditions and pay in 2012.  The pre-trial hearing at the High Court today heard arguments from lawyers representing the 142 claimants, who are mainly small scale or subsistence farmers and traders, in a bid to get compensation for their injuries sustained in two incidents in 2010 and 2012.  Tonkolili Iron Ore Ltd denies liability for the incidents which took place just outside the Tonkolili Iron Ore Ltd mining site outside Bumbuna town in the north of Sierra Leone.  The company claims that it has no vicarious responsibility for the actions of the police and that the English courts lack jurisdiction for events in Sierra Leone...Witness evidence alleges that villagers who had set up a roadblock, to stop the company destroying their farms and their livelihoods, were faced with police who opened fire on them...

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Article
1 December 2015

Villagers in Sierra Leone are suing iron ore mining company African minerals

Author: Abdul Thomas, Sierra Leone Telegraph (Sierra Leone)

African Minerals Ltd., Sierra Leone’s largest mining company is in hot water again…It had been accused by workers and local residents of Tonkolili district of paying peanuts to the local workforce, and operating under poor working conditions.  Residents living near the mines have also protested against what they regard as serious violation and abdicating of its corporate social responsibility…African Minerals Limited is being sued in a London court over allegations that it evicted residents and violently mistreated workers and villagers living close to one of its mines in Sierra Leone…The multi-million-pound lawsuit will involve 142 claimants who are aiming to receive compensation for injuries sustained during two incidents in 2010 and 2012…The company was heavily impacted by the Ebola crisis in 2014.  In December of that year, the combination of a lack of investment and slumping iron ore prices forced the miner to halt its operations…The Chinese steel company said in April that it planned to return the mine, which is the second largest iron ore mine in Africa, to full production during the wet season.

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Article
29 November 2015

Sierra Leone villagers sue mining company in London high court

Author: Lisa O’Carroll, Guardian (UK)

An iron ore firm once listed in London is being sued in a multimillion pound lawsuit over evictions and alleged violent treatment of workers and villagers living near one of its mines in Sierra Leone.  African Minerals Limited is accused of complicity in false imprisonment, assault and battery, trespass and theft of the claimants’ property…[T]he mining company denies liability, saying it has no vicarious responsibility for any actions of the police and the English courts lack jurisdiction for events in Sierra Leone…Its latest case centres on two alleged incidents near an AML mining site on the outskirts of Bumbuna town in the north of Sierra Leone, where it says landowners were subjected to unprovoked violence and harassment.  According to court filings, a number of villages were taken over and hundreds of families relocated with minimal consultation in a move to allow the company to expand its operations…[T]he villagers told the mining company they were trespassing on their lands and set up a roadblock to stop them destroying their farms and their livelihoods…

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Article
16 April 2014

Elemental Human Rights and Sierra Leone’s Iron Ore

Author: Joe Kirschke, Engineering & Mining Journal

In...2012...Sierra Leone...witnessed a confrontation between police and workers...at a project owned by...African Minerals Ltd. (AML)... [P]olice unleashed...live ammunition...killing a female contractor while wounding eight...such episodes have haunted mining for generations...Consequently, environmental concerns...are taking a back seat to human rights issues...AML...is hardly alone..AML differs, however, in its ongoing...rapport with...Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigators...[T]the primary triggers of violence..[have] been workplace discontent...managerial racism and abuse coupled with restrictions...[on] union formation...Mine-area displacement...is equally challenging. “Investors...exploit land title and corruption,” writes Peligal [Human Rights Watch Deputy Africa Director Rona Peligal]...[leading to] rights abuses...[P]rotecting the rights of Sierra Leonians is not an option, but a legal obligation... “This has been a steep learning curve...” former Global Head of Sustainable Development Graham Foyle-Twining conceded...[also refers to Barrick Gold, BHP Billiton, Freeport-McMoRan, Rio Tinto, and Lonmin]

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