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London Bullion Market Association drops challenge to groundbreaking human rights claim proceeding in UK court

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London Bullion Market Association drops challenge to groundbreaking human rights claim proceeding in UK court

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The LBMA has withdrawn its jurisdiction challenge, allowing a landmark human rights case to proceed in the UK

The London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) has withdrawn its jurisdiction challenge in a landmark human rights claim proceeding in the UK courts. The claim involves families of two men killed at the North Mara Gold Mine in Tanzania by security forces. The families allege the LBMA wrongly certified gold from the mine as free from serious human rights abuses.

LBMA initially argued that Tanzania was a more appropriate jurisdiction for the case, despite the LBMA being a British organisation and Tanzanian courts posing significant access issues for victims of human rights abuses, particularly those involving police violence. This move to challenge jurisdiction is a common tactic by corporations to delay and obstruct international human rights claims.

Filed in August 2023, the LBMA's "forum non conveniens" application was set for a hearing in June 2024 but was withdrawn five weeks before the scheduled hearing. Consequently, Leigh Day, the law firm representing the families, will now pursue the case in London's High Court. The case concerns the deaths of two 23-year-old Tanzanian nationals at the North Mara Gold Mine, notorious for its deadly human rights record, with at least 77 deaths and 304 injuries reported between 2006 and 2023, and further deaths in 2024.

The legal case will explore whether a certification body can be held accountable for a flawed certification process that allegedly facilitated the trading of gold tainted by human rights abuses in the London market. The LBMA, which oversees the world's largest gold market with US$230 billion of gold traded weekly, certifies all gold traded in London as ‘good delivery’—meaning it must be responsibly sourced and free from serious human rights abuses. The claimants argue that proper enforcement of the LBMA’s Responsible Sourcing Programme would have prevented the human rights abuses at the North Mara mine and saved lives.

Leigh Day filed the legal claim in the High Court in December 2022 and served it in August 2023, but the LBMA’s jurisdiction challenge delayed proceedings by nearly a year. With the application now withdrawn, the case is moving toward trial.

Leigh Day partner Daniel Leader and Senior Associate Solicitor Alex Wessely are leading the legal claim. Leader stated, “This case will test for the first time whether a certification body can be held legally responsible for a flawed certification process which is said to have greenwashed human rights abuses. The victims need to know why this was allowed to happen and look forward to the case proceeding next year.”

The LBMA made the following statement: “The LBMA is a not-for-profit member-based association which provides accreditation to refiners of gold and silver via LBMA’s “Good Delivery List”. The Good Delivery List, first and foremost, sets technical standards (fine ounce weight, purity and physical appearance) which refiners must meet.

Refiners that wish to be included on the Good Delivery List are required to implement the LBMA’s ‘Responsible Sourcing Guidance’, which comprises the Responsible Gold Guidance and Responsible Silver Guidance, and to obtain annual independent third-party assurances reporting on their compliance with this guidance. Our role is to support raising standards around human rights in the supply chain. LBMA will be defending the substance of the claim when we proceed to trial.”

Alex Wessely added, “Our clients are pleased that they will get their day in Court to seek justice for the deaths of their relatives. It is a shame that the LBMA has wasted almost 10 months pursuing this application, only to drop it at the 11th hour, but I am very pleased that the litigation is now back on track.”

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