Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of the African Minerals Company at State House on Tuesday, President Koroma says mining occupies an important place in our national development agenda and constitutes one of the leading elements in our growth areas expected to drive the development process.
“Historically, the mining sector has contributed significantly to the economy of the country accounting for up to 80% of export earnings and 20% of GDP”, says Koroma.
He adds, the social, developmental, health and environmental problems associated with the industry could outweigh this positive contribution if mining companies do not pay sufficient attention to them. “For too long, we have lived in the paradox of being so richly endowed in mineral resources and yet so poor”, he said.
He stated that the partnership between mining companies and the government works best in an atmosphere of trust and integrity. “That is why my government took the decision to increase transparency in the exploitation of our mineral resources through our membership of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the recent review of mineral rights.”
“Our desire as a government is to create a stable and conducive business climate in which mining companies can operate freely and which guarantees fair returns on their investment.”
He maintained that such a climate will enable the country to derive more benefits from mining activities in the form of higher revenues through taxes and fees and the nation as a whole in terms of infrastructural development and the provision of employment and social services for the people.
“African Minerals Company (SL) Limited has demonstrated the potential to become a valued partner of government in the pursuit of the goal of making life better for our people through the variety of activities it has undertaken since the company began operations in the country”, he said.
Through the company’s aeromagnetic surveys from 2004 to 2005 at an estimated cost of US$20 million, the government and interested parties are now in a better position to know fairly well the variety of minerals we have in the country, the size of the deposits and where they are to be found.
He noted that reconnaissance sampling and trenching in Tonkolili as well as magnetic mineralization in Tonkolili and Marampa Masimra, resulted in the discovery of 43 kimberlite anormalies and 4.7 billion tonnes of iron ore deposit. He observed this deposit is reputed to be the largest in Africa and the 4th largest in the world. With the massive drilling programme in which the company is currently engaged, there is a potential for the iron ore deposit to extend up to the 10 billion tonnes mark and many more discoveries of mineral deposits to be made.
Koroma disclosed that on the 6th of November 2008, his Government concluded an infrastructural lease agreement with African Railway and Port Services (SL) Limited, a subsidiary of African Minerals (SL) Limited for the development of a 200km railway from Targrin to Tonkolili via Pepel, Lunsar and Makeni; A seaport at Targrin to handle 45 million tonnes of iron ore yearly with facilities to service other mining companies, agriculture and other sectors; and Rehabilitation and upgrading of Pepel port to maximize its handling and export capacity.
“I want to give credit to the African Minerals Company (SL) Limited for this bold breakthrough in thinking big, planning big and hoping for the highest”, said Koroma.
In his power point presentation of the proposed rail way and port infrastructure development for the large scale production of iron ore at Marampa and Tonkolili, Alan Watling President of African Minerals Sierra Leone Limited (AML) said Tonkolili has two billion tons of iron ore which makes it the largest iron ore deposit in Africa and fourth largest in the world.
He said that the company has expended over USD 100 Million on exploration in Sierra Leone to date, and that the company will further fund in excess of USD 2.5 Billion to bring into production.
The President noted that the management of the company strongly believes that potential exists at Tonkolili to increase resources estimation by beyond 10 billion ton.
Highlighting some of the benefits to Sierra Leone, he stated that there will be significant training opportunities empowering Sierra Leoneans; there will be a significant infrastructure development.
Walting stated that royalties payment to the government will be USD 100 Million per annum from the sale of iron concentrated product to international markets.
He emphasized that his company is one of the largest employers in Sierra Leone and has demonstrated it is committed to its policy of employing Sierra Leoneans.
On environmental responsibility, he said his company policy is to conform to internationally recognized environmental standards to promote and respect the environment.
He concluded by saying that Sierra Leone and African Minerals Limited will, working together, advance the Tonkolili project from concept to reality.
In his statement, Executive Chairman African Minerals Sierra Leone Limited Frank Timis gave an update on what they have been able to achieve over the past four years.
He stated that in 2004 they started operations by using modern exploration tools that have not been used in most of Africa and other West African countries.
Timis noted that their focus on the last two years was Tonkolili which has the largest iron deposits of 10 billion tons.
Minister of Mineral Resources Alhaji Alpha Kanu said that the project was a continuation of what his predecessor Alhaji Jalloh started.
Also, a procession visit to Targrin, Pepel port sites for the ground breaking ceremony was made.
By Abibatu Kamara