The Mozambican police have not yet arrested anybody in connection with last Saturday’s attack against security guards at the ruby mine operated by Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM), in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
Interviewed by the independent newssheet “Carta de Mocambique”, the spokesperson for the Cabo Delgado provincial police command, Augusto Guta, confirmed that a group of illegal miners attacked five security guards at about 05.00.
The security guards were inspecting part of the MRM concession area when they came across a large number of illegal miners. When the guards approached them they came under attack, and three of them were seriously injured. The miners also set an MRM vehicle on fire.
Guta said the police intervened to restore order, but made no arrests. He added that the police are working to discourage people from mining illicitly in the MRM concession area.
In a statement issued on Monday, MRM said there has recently been “a dramatic and coordinated increase in the number of illegal miners who enter the concession, including women and children”. These mine invasions are extremely dangerous: MRM points out that earlier in the month about a dozen illegal miners died, when the walls of the shafts where they were digging collapsed on top of them.
MRM believes the miners are exploited by syndicates of ruby smugglers, financed by foreign buyers. The illegal miners are paid only a small fraction of the market value of the rubies they extract from the MRM concession area.
MRM promised to continue working with the local Montepuez communities to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal mining, “but the activities of the miners are now beyond our capacities. So we are asking for support from the Government to solve this problem, which has caused the company enormous losses”.