Sierra Rutile Ltd. the premier mining company in southern Sierra Leone, has paid out over two billion Leones as surface rent to land owners, Paramount Chiefs and other key stakeholders engaged in development projects throughout the five Chiefdoms of Jong, Upper Banta Mokelleh, Lower Banta Gbangbatoke, Imperri, and Bagruwa which are close to its mining operations.
This was the highest quantum of money paid by any mining company in Sierra Leone to a community so far. The Mines and Minerals Act of 2009 states that surface rent must be distributed as follows: Land owners 50%, Paramount Chief 15%, District Council 15%, Chiefdom Administration (for chiefdom development) 10% and Constituency Development 10%.
The amount was paid to various stakeholders in the five Chiefdoms as Landowners and Paramount Chiefs received Le1.4 billion; Le209million was paid to the Chiefdom Development Fund while Le313million was also paid to both Moyamba and Bonthe District Councils and Le209million was paid to the Funds for the development of Constituencies 79, 83 & 84.
Additionally 182 families, excluding Paramount Chiefs and other development agencies benefited from this financial windfall.
The Minister of Mineral Resources Alpha Kanu and his senior administrative, technical and political staff were recently at Sierra Rutile to explain the new Mines and Minerals Act to both company employees and landowners to ensure compliance of the Mines and Minerals Act.
Hundreds of people from all the five mining Chiefdoms recently converged at the Sierra Rutile Social Hall to receive their payments. The payment exercise was replicated a couple of days later at Sembehun where all the stakeholders in the Bagruwa Chiefdom were paid by a mobile unit of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank.
Chairing the occasion, the Provincial Secretary South, Mr. George Banya admonished the people to use the money wisely. He pointed out that Government has increased the percentage received directly by individual landowners and that Government has also factored in percentages for community development at the Council, Chiefdom and District levels.
He informed the jam-packed hall that the company has honoured its obligation and it was now the responsibility of individuals and local dignitaries to ensure that the company’s efforts were not wasted by using the finances for both their personal and community development.
Mr. Dauda Kamara, the company’s Community Affairs Manager informed the gathering that despite the constraints faced by Sierra Rutile due to the loss of one of its dredges, they have always fulfilled their statutory corporate social responsibilities. It was now up to the individuals and Chiefdom, constituency and District Council dignitaries to use the over two billion Leones judiciously so that history will judge both the company and indigenes kindly.
Present at the ceremony were Mr G. G. Banya, Provincial Secretary, South and his deputy Mr G.A. Penyikie, Member of Parliament Hon. Florence Kombe-Bundu, LUC Tamba Kargbo, Paramount Chiefs of the mining Chiefdoms and their Section Chiefs, Chairman of the Landowners Federation, Landowners and their families.
In another development besides the statutory corporate social responsibilities, Sierra Rutile will be officially launching a Technical & Vocational Institute for the children of the mining communities to enhance their chances of getting employment with the company and other institutions in the country.
This vocational training school costs over a billion Leones and would be the first of its kind in operation since the days of the now defunct Marampa Mines.
The launching is expected to take place by mid-April and the school fully operational by next academic year. Both the Board of Directors and Principal have been identified. Furniture and teaching materials are all in place. The school will initially cater for mining technicians (fitters, electricians, welders etc) but would eventually include agriculture in the curriculum as it has vast areas of land.
Sierra Rutile Limited in collaboration with other development partners like Forgotten Diamonds in the USA has established at the mine site an Educational Resource Centre that has a library of over 13,000 books and an Adult literacy wing, a computer centre, sewing / arts and crafts centre and a vegetable garden.
Recently The Chief Executive Officer of Sierra Rutile Mr. John Sisay witnessed the adult literacy program in progress. He was so impressed that he promised additional funding and other logistics like bags of rice used for cooking when classes are in progress. The Resource Centre serves the entire mining community and is the only library in the area.
Sierra Rutile also assisted in the repairs of some 67 miles of a previously terrible road from Moyamba Junction to the mine site. Sierra Rutile is going the extra mile to enhance the socio-economic status of the people by improving the living conditions of the people in the various mining communities that the company operates. By Saidu Bah