Dar es Salaam. A major study published earlier this month outlines key recommendations Petra Diamonds can implement restoring relations with communities neighbouring its Williamson mine in Shinyanga, emphasising the need to “improve [the mine’s] understanding of and responsiveness to the concerns and needs of local residents.”
Titled Petra Diamonds’ Attempts to Come Clean With Its Tarnished Past in Tanzania: Challenges in Securing Access to Remedy and Restoring Community Relations After Serious Human Rights Abuse at the Williamson Diamond Mine, the 92-page report was conducted by the International Peace Information Service (IPIS), a Belgium-based research institute.
Funded by the European Union (EU) and Belgian Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD), the study assesses Petra Diamonds’ efforts to restore community relations and remediate the legacy of serious human rights abuse at its Williamson diamond mine in Shinyanga.
The study, published on November 9, 2023, involved field research, over 120 interviews with local residents, civil society and local authority actors, and engagements with key stakeholders, including Petra.
IPIS conducted the study between July 2022 and October 2023, a year after Petra, a Jersey-based diamond mining group, agreed in May 2021 to a settlement with 96 Tanzanian claimants, committing to a detailed settlement package worth approximately EUR5 million, equivalent to Sh13.6 billion.
The settlement followed reports of human rights abuse at the Williamson mine, which remained unaddressed since at least 2011, including allegations of beatings, torture, illegal detentions, indiscriminate shootings, sexual violence and killings of locals entering the mine.
In 2020, UK law firm Leigh Day filed an action in the UK High Court on behalf of victims and their families against Petra as the majority owner of Williamson Diamonds Ltd, culminating in the historic settlement, which entailed compensation for victims, community development projects and the establishment of a grievance mechanism to remedy additional harms.
In their study, researchers found that Petra and Williamson Diamonds have taken “important steps” to come clean with the troubled past, including bridging the huge detachment of the mine from adjacent communities that allowed the situation to get out of hand.
Petra has since relinquished its majority stake in Williamson mine – held since 2009 – though still maintains a notable shareholding. Williamson Diamonds Limited (WDL) is a joint venture between Petra and the Tanzanian government, which owns and operates the deposit.
“Yet, our research shows that only continuing to improve their understanding of and responsiveness to the concerns and needs of local residents will allow implementing the well-intended initiatives with optimal effect,” the researchers note.
“This will be crucial to ensuring that potential abuses do not once again linger under the radar to escalate and to ensure that Petra lives up to its claims of responsible business practice and ethically mined diamonds,” they add.
The study lists several recommendations for Petra to prevent and minimise harm, ensure equitable access to fair redress and manage fragile trust and build long-lasting positive community relations.
“In general, meaningful community engagement and better adherence to the highest human rights standards and environmental due diligence should be at the heart of Petra and Williamson Diamonds’ further efforts,” researchers argue.
“It is only through the full and effective implementation of these corporate best practices that both entities can jointly deliver on their promises of responsible business conduct in a way that is experienced as such by communities impacted by the mine,” they emphasised.
In a written response to researchers, Petra, while grateful for the report, noted that “there is important further information, in addition to the extensive coverage in the IPIS Report, that needs to be considered to get a fuller picture of the issues” it outlines in its response.
“Petra is also always open to further engagements with IPIS going forward to better understand some of the issues raised in the IPIS Report,” the company added, pointing out that it will identify ways of improving, particularly in relation to the Independent Grievance Mechanism (IGM) which is the focus of the IPIS Report.