Gemfields Group Ltd., formerly Pallinghurst Resources Ltd., said July 2 that its 75%-owned Ethiopian unit, Web Gemstone Mining plc, was attacked by a mob of about 300 to 500 people.
The company said there seems to be no clear motive for the dispute, but "it is believed that they may have been spurred by a faction seeking a portion of WGM's [emerald exploration] license."
All of Web Gemstone's employees, contractors and service providers were safely evacuated to a town, with minor injuries to two members of the team.
Local authorities dealing with the situation are said to have since secured the residential camp and mine offices, as well as the contractors' camp. The bulk sampling operation is yet to be secured.
The remaining 25% interest in Web Gemstone belongs to 50 individuals, either individually or through a mining cooperative comprising of local villagers, the majority of which are drawn from the nearby village.
Pallinghurst confirmed the name change to Gemfields June 26 following approval by shareholders. The company moved towards the compulsory acquisition of the remaining Gemfields Plc shares in July 2017 after receiving valid acceptances for 92.38% of them.