Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources Abdul Ignosi Koroma says artisanal mining has been and will continue to be an integral part of Sierra Leone.
He made this statement while delivering his keynote address on the formal launch of the standard and guidelines for Sierra Leone’s artisanal diamond mining sector at the CCSL conference hall in Brookfields, Freetown.
The programme was organised by the Network movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) in collaboration with the Diamond Development Initiative (DDI) and Partnership Africa Canada (PAC).
Mr Koroma said that “diamonds are not a renewable resource, alluvial locations are becoming harder to identify, the risks are higher and eventually the returns will become lower.”
He said his ministry appreciated the efforts of DDI saying it was the first effort of its kind, and the findings and recommendations were interesting.
Mr Koroma said his ministry welcomed the publication by DDI which he said provided a useful insight into what was actually happening, noting that they had paid particular attention to the section on government.
“We obviously want to see the people of Sierra Leone derive the maximum benefit from our natural resources; however we need to move beyond a polarizing debate” he went on to say.
The deputy minister admitted that government was aware and concerned about the rising tensions in Kono and urged all to commit themselves to constructive engagement or criticisms.
The government he said also recognises the tension and conflicts created between artisanal and large-scale miners, adding, “we hope to be able to extend the cadastre to the other regions and ensure that artisanal license information is consolidated with other licenses.”
He said his ministry was considering various policy options that could result in new regulations for artisanal mining and precious mineral trading.
Deputy Minister of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment Daniel Gaima said the mining sector and all other sectors of the economy required land for their operations. He noted that there was a competing need for land, which requires government’s strong support and an adequate legal and institutional support.
Mr Gaima emphasised that land remained a political and economic issue in the world over.
Paramount Chief Alhaji Kono Bundor of Gulama Kono said 60% of artisanal mining activities in the country happened in Kono. Yet he went on, his district was ranked amongst the poorest and remained under-developed.
In a press statement, DDI states that even though Sierra Leone is at peace, the diamond industry remains troubled.