“We must guard against growth exacerbating and multiplying the problem that currently exist, we must encourage investment from responsible and reputable businesses whose activities do not cause irreparable environmental damage or unrest”
This was the warning issued by President Koroma to participants at the Mineral sector reform workshop yesterday at state house in Freetown.
The mineral sector reform workshop was organized by the Ministry of mineral resources with the strategy and policy unit on mines, and stake holders currently working in the mining industry in the country for the review of all mining policies, to mobilize the resources needed for achieving national development and ensuring that the people benefit from the exploitation of the countries mineral resources.
The Mineral Resources Minister Abubakarr Jalloh who moderated the workshop spoke about the viability of his ministry for the growth and development of Sierra Leone and emphasized the need for a proactive approach in building the capacity of the mines ministry and also the development of the host community.
The major objective of the workshop was to demonstrate the economic and social development potential of the mineral sector in Sierra Leone and also identify the constraints faced in realizing the full potential of our mineral resources and devise means of overcoming them for the rapid growth of the country. Participants will also agree on a strategy for the implementation of the mineral sector reform and create an enabling environment for investment with serious consideration on the review of the public and private partnership on environmental and social impact assessment on existing situations. The minister spoke about the role of NRA to identify more effective revenue collection from the mining sector and boastfully noted that his ministry can now report that there is over 2billion tons of iron ore deposits and 800 tons of bauxite in Sierra Leone, and called on concerned authorities to work hard and implement the review policies rather than putting the notes on the library.
Herbert M’Cleod of the strategic unit in the Ministry of Mines spoke about the income generated from mining companies as revenues currently stands at $230m per annum and a projected increment to $1.2billion is expected by 2020. He disclosed that the current export per annum on minerals are Gold 4%, Rutile 4%, Bauxite 4% and Diamond 10% which accounts for 5% of government revenue.
According to the Director General of Geological Survey Mustapha Mansaray highlighted the current brain drain faced by his department as the country only has 69 geologists and there is a need to train more personnel in the field. He also noted that the ministry has certified 130 licenses for mining companies. He also intimated that, 38 companies are presently prospecting, 16 of them are not for diamonds but other minerals, 35 companies are on small scale mining while 47 are engaged on exploration and 10 companies are embarking on large scale mining.
Mr. Mansaray catalogued the challenges facing the geology department which includes the lack of air-borne and geological survey, modernization of laboratories, library and research facilities and effective and transparent communication methods has seriously hampered the smooth running of his department.A representative from Koidu Holdings spoke about the difficult circumstances his company is operating in the country and highlighted the socio economic challenges facing the company and the security threat compounding the situation for mining operations in the country.
He called on the government to improve the economy and its human capital and reduce the political risk involved, adding that the markets determine the price of resources and urged the people not to look at investors as enemies, but development partners.
Several government officials attended the workshop, while the Presidential Affairs Minister Alpha Kanu called for the formation of a National Mining Company that will monitor and supervise all mining policies for the effective implementation of the reviewed policy and also called for a similar consultative forum for parliamentarians.
By Saidu Bah