ISIL-linked armed group attacks ruby mine in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado

Precious gem producer, Gemfields, has reported an attack close to its ruby mine in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province, but said operations have not been halted.

Attacks by ISIL (ISIS)-linked armed groups in Cabo Delgado have killed thousands of people since conflict broke out in 2017, disrupting multibillion-dollar natural gas and mining projects.

Gemfields, whose 75 percent-owned Montepuez Ruby Mining Limitada (MRM) produced 83,990 carats of premium rubies in 2021, and has generated $827m in sales since 2014, said on Wednesday that the attack took place on July 13.

“The attack reportedly took place in the Muaja village area, which is some 30 kilometres (18.64 miles) by road from MRM. A large number of people are reportedly relocating to Nanhupo and Namanhumbir, where the mining operations are located,” Gemfields said in a statement.

The attack was closer to the mine than previous incidents, the company said, adding that operations had not been halted, but continued with “increased vigilance”.

Violence has affected other mining firms in the region recently. In June, Australia-listed Triton Minerals reported an attack on its Ancuabe graphite project site, while Syrah Resources briefly suspended logistics and personnel movement after attacks close to its primary transport route.

Non-governmental organisations and Mozambican media monitoring the armed uprising last week reported a westward push by the fighters, who were reported to have beheaded two men working in the fields outside Muaja, less than 10 kilometres from the district border with Montepuez.

Southern African countries, who along with Rwanda sent troops to Mozambique last year to help quell the violence, last week agreed to extend their deployment for another month.

Offshore gas workers were among 200 trapped by ISIL-linked fighters. A hotel has become the latest flashpoint in a long-running conflict in northern Mozambique. ISIL-linked fighters besieged the town of Palma on Wednesday, forcing nearly 200 people to seek refuge in a resort.

Many were foreign nationals working on a natural gas project owned by Total, which only announced a resumption of operations a few hours before the attack.

The latest assault by the al-Shabab armed group (not related to the Somali group of the same name) highlighted the increasing instability in the gas-rich Cabo Delgado province. -Aljazeera

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