On Friday 29 June 2018, a mob estimated at between 300 and 500 persons overran the operations of Web Gemstone Mining, an Ethiopian company in which Gemfields holds a majority interest.
Web Gemstone Mining’s (WGM’s employees, contractors and service providers were safely evacuated to a town some two hours away by road. Two members of the WGM team suffered minor injuries at the hands of the mob and are expected to make full recoveries.
WGM is liaising with local and national authorities and has been advised that local authorities have since secured WGM’s residential camp and mine offices, as well as the camp used by WGM’s contractors.
WGM understands that the bulk sampling operation is yet to be secured.
A state of emergency in Ethiopia, announced in February 2018, was lifted on 5 June 2018. While the motive of the mob remains unclear, it is believed that they may have been spurred by a faction seeking a portion of WGM’s licence.
The gemstone operation is 75%-owned by Gemfields with the remaining 25% interest belonging to 50 individuals, either individually or through a mining cooperative comprising of local villagers, the majority of which are drawn from the nearby village of Web.
Gemfields acquired its stake in WGM in February 2015. WGM holds an emerald exploration licence with a total concession area of 200 km2 with 27 km of potential emerald-mineralised strike length.
WGM first established its operations on site in June 2015 and has to date been conducting exploration and core-drilling, with bulk-operations commencing in August 2017.