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142 claimants, mainly small scale or subsistence farmers and traders, are taking High Court 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.

Our  clients allege that the company, headquartered in London, was complicit in  false imprisonment, assault and battery, trespass and theft of property in two incidents in 2010 and 2012.

It is also alleged that a 24-year-old female was fatally shot by police during a protest over working conditions and pay in 2012.

Tonkolili Iron Ore Ltd denies liability for the incidents, 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.

One of the lead claimants Ms K, 25, claims that she was beaten, raped and miscarried as a result of violence in Bumbuna town in 2010. In court papers, she said:

“I remember seeing big AML trucks coming to work on our farms. They didn’t speak to anyone. We had already planted our produce and we gathered as a community and started grumbling. We were saying, how can these people come and work in our farms without saying something to us,”

Ms K claims she was flogged by the police before being taken to the Tonkolili Iron Ore camp, she was two months pregnant at the time and lost her baby.

“We all wanted to stop AML from destroying our farmland so I was guilty just because I lived in the village,” she said.

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.

In 2012 it is alleged that police used live ammunition to stop a protest staged by workers over low wages and unfair treatment resulting in a 24-year-old woman being shot dead while eight were wounded after police.

According to Human Rights Watch, hundreds of families were evicted from their land to make way for the mine near Bumbuna with minimal consultation with villagers. 

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