Over 50 Parliamentarians were on Wednesday May 14, 2008 engaged by Civil Society Groups interested in the Mining Sector of this Country. This Consultative Seminar was organized by the National Advocacy Coalition on Extractives (NACE), a coalition that comprises national and international organizations.
The core of the seminar was around an impending bill that has been developed by the Law Reform Commission and still with the executive branch of government waiting to be tendered to Parliament at an unknown date.
At the opening ceremony of the seminar, the majority All Peoples’ Congress party leader, Hon. Eddie Turay referring to the seminar as a pre-legislative session, admonished all Parliamentarians present at the seminar to take it seriously as discussions at the meeting will give insights to them on the issues being discussed for a healthy debate when the actual bill would have been tendered before the House for scrutiny, debate and enactment.
The Chairman, Committee on Mines, Hon. Augustine Torto stated that he will judge very objectively the would-be bill in spite of his APC party colour. He said debate will purely for the interest of the country. He said the Mines and Minerals Laws should be beneficial to the country as a whole.
Cecilia Mattia, Coordinator for NACE in her rationale for the seminar stated that it was necessary that a pre-legislative engagement of the draft bill be undertaken to give an insight of what is coming to them for debate. This way she said the legislators will be amply informed on the content of the impending document. The NACE coordinator said the coalition comprises international organizations and one, Christian Aid was the cause for this seminar to take place. She expressed gratitude to Christian Aid for supporting the seminar and appealed to others for similar support.
At the civil society information sharing session with the MPs, the Joseph Rahall, Executive Director of the environmental group, Green Scenery, informed the gathering that research has shown that in ten years of Sierra Rutile’s operation, the company mined 1,650,000 tonnes of rutile, leaving behind a total waste of 64 million tones. He further estimated that the current Sierra Rutile will, when all its three dredges are operating be mining a total of 920,000 tonnes of rutile from now to 2011 and producing a waste of 79 million tones. This figures he said were derived from estimates presented by Titanium Resource Group website. Rahall said that over 120,000 hectares of land has been rendered useless by mining and the figure is growing every year.
Sunna Bundu of Network Movement for Justice and Development said that Kono district is awash with a lot of problems due to diamond mining. She raised critical issues relating to corporate mining, particularly the kimberlite mining of which there is no law in the country. She further highlighted the poverty of the region saying that employed miners in the artisanal mining sector are still earning below one dollar a day. She expressed stated that the artisanal mining sector is in total chaos and that it needs to be properly organized.
Leslie Mboka from CADEM said that Sierra Rutile is getting away with so much facilities including unimaginable concessions fiscal and others. This he said is detrimental to the country and contributing to the poverty status of Sierra Leone. Mboka said that the mining communities are by far poorer than adjacent non mining communities.
The Draft Consolidated Mines and Minerals Act and the Report were formally submitted to the government by the Law Reform Commission in 2007 shortly after the President was elected. It was anticipated that in a short time the draft document would have been submitted to Parliament for debate and enactment. According to information sourced from the seminar, the delay has been caused by the Ministry of Mineral Resources, which is believed to be altering clauses that are not in its favour.