To avoid mining conflict mines committee engages stakeholders in Kabala
The Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Mineral Resources paid a three-day working visit to Koinadugu District on 30 April – 2 May 2014 to be fully appraised on mining activities in the district, especially of those engaged in exploration.
Committee Chairman, Hon Amadu Kanu, told stakeholders of the district that the Mines Committee is not fully appraised of mining activities in Koinadugu, including the Koinadugu District Council, and they want to be educated so that the proper engagements can be made to avoid conflicts.
“We have noticed the gap between the Koinadugu District Council and mining companies operating in the district,” he said. “This includes some of those companies engaged in exploration and those currently doing mining. However we are for this time concentrating on those doing exploration. You all know that mining across the world often degenerate into conflicts – we don’t want that to happen here.”
For a start, do these exploration companies with licenses employ Sierra Leonean geologists; do they write bi-annual reports of their activities as requested by the Ministry of Mines; and how are these companies treating their workers, including their relationship with the communities they operate in. Also, how many companies are there operating in this district and are they being monitored properly?
“The reason Parliament enacted the 2009 Mines and Minerals Act is to create the enabling environment and for fairness to all parties concerned – both for the mining companies to get back their returns on their investment, and for us as a nation to also benefit from our minerals.”
In response, Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs who was former District Chairman of Koinadugu District Council, Peter Bayuku Conteh, said he is happy about the assessment meeting.
He said there are problems. First, mining laws are not being respected by these mining or exploration companies. And, no one fully knows who is in charge – is it the chiefs, is it the Mines Ministry, or the district council?
“Some mining companies operating here don’t have proper documents to operate here at all,” he said to the applause of all. “Besides, some are under the pretext of exploration just to avoid their corporate social responsibilities. In fact, 90 percent of these companies don’t pay rebates at all.”
Minister Bayuku said Parliament should help the communities who are so vulnerable in the hands of these companies, and bring sanity into the system, including letting Sierra Leoneans derive maximum benefit from these minerals.
“Now, we want a list of all exploration and mining companies operating in the district, including their activities report,” he said. “Those who are legal will be supported but those who are not will be driven out of Koinadugu District. The way it should be is for us to have those who are legitimate to have a free hand so that we all benefit together.”
The Chief Administrator of Koinadugu District Council, Sahr E. Yambasu, rejoined that indeed much has gone wrong in the past and the Council doesn’t want that anymore.
“Now, let us cultivate the habit of consultation,” he appealed. “This appeal is to the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources don’t just issue licenses to mining companies – whether for exploration or not – without letting us at the Council know. Otherwise, if you issue licenses without our knowledge, there will be confrontation. As such, to avoid it, bring all stakeholders on board.
“Another thing is sensitization – that is, let the different communities know the difference between mining and exploration – I am sure if they know, it will lessen much tensions and expectations.”
Mr. Yambasu said he wants to know when during exploration if minerals are extracted what will be the benefit to the community and other stakeholders. Besides, the nine years given to mining companies for exploration is such a long time – why not find a way in shortening it?
He encouraged all to go by the rules, and respect for each stakeholder to be encouraged, especially Council and the people’s representatives like councilors and members of parliament.
“For your information it is Council that is mandated to oversee development across the district, so don’t ignore us please,” he concluded.
It is for these same reasons, said the Mines Committee, that they are in town, and while here they are not looking back on past wrongs but to look for ways how these wrongs can be avoided in future, because the people’s welfare is the Committee’s concern.
However, it was the Committee’s view that exploration companies be encouraged and supported because they are investing a lot of money and equipment; but if they are being harassed, well, they might as well pack their gear and leave. “If we are in a hurry to develop, we won’t benefit; so let us all be patient,” the Committee advised.
Mr. Prince Cuffie, Deputy Director, Geological Survey, National Minerals Agency, said presently there is only one small scale mining company at Diang Chiefdom.
“Our objective at the National Minerals Agency is for Sierra Leone to benefit from its minerals, but for this to happen two things must take place – if mining is to occur, serious exploration should happen and while this is ongoing, the community and stakeholders have a right to know who has a license to operate, and for those with license but are not operating, please let us know so we can recommend for a withdrawal of such license and for it to be given to those who mean business.
“Secondly, exploration companies are only exploring, so please don’t make big requests to them yet until after they graduate into full scale mining when they will be bound to honour their corporate social responsibilities. However, if they give to the communities, fine; but it is not obligatory on them to do so. So be patient until they graduate into full scale mining,” he said.
Presently, there are two mining companies doing exploration work in the district – Rimco Mining, a Nigerian company, and Central Mining Company from Ukraine.
Rimco Mining has seven licenses to do exploratory work for iron ore and gold, among other minerals. Its Mines Administrator, Egigba Moses, said they are obeying all the rules as stated in their licenses, including employing Sierra Leonean geologists, among other skilled staff, and the issuing of scholarships. The communities they operate in at Falaba and its environs, agreed to this, including the two paramount chiefs at Kabala – PC Gbawuru Mansaray III of Wara-Wara Yagala, and PC Alie Balansama Marah III of Sengbeh.
Both Paramount Chiefs appealed for more engagements between the mining companies and the council, and other stakeholders, for the benefit of everyone.
They also warned that people have taken licenses without doing anything with those licenses – these people should start work or else let them give space to more serious companies to take over.
The next company, Central Mining Company, also has a four-year license for an 84.8 square kilometers to explore for gold beyond Falaba.
Laurov Konstantine, its Director, said they started work early this year and by June this year they would have secured the required 40 grams of gold dust samples to be taken to Canada for analyses for gold.
He said there are presently 10 geologists – all of them from Ukraine – at their site. And, they have promised to help the communities they operate in with many things once the results of the tests return from Canada and it is confirmed there is the required deposit of gold in their allotment.
Concerns from other stakeholders included those from Campaign for Good Governance. Its representative in Kabala, Khalilu Bah, said most often these licenses are given without sensitization about that to the communities that will be affected; and another concern is that most often these companies change their names as soon as they finished exploration to evade their corporate responsibilities.
“And my final concern is about these mines monitors on the field – most of them are not on salary. This is dangerous, because they will be compromised by mining companies,” he said.
Another concern came from the councilor at Ward 147 at Diang Chiefdom, Hawa Mufala Kondeh. She said Diang is very small and exploration licenses maybe given to nine or ten companies who come and take away their lands and swamps without any land being left to them for their farming, except a small portion which itself is being besieged by cattle.
“We the people of Diang are suffering terribly because we have no land to do our farming. Somebody must help us please,” she pleaded.
This is true, agreed Alice Saio Koroma, another councilor at Ward 146 also at Diang Chiefdom.
“You people should visit Diang Chiefdom to see how these mining companies that have been given license to operate there have left our land,” she said. “Now what do you people call exploration – is it turning our land upside down and leaving it like that? And we councilors are not even countenanced. Well, all right, give licenses, but at least notify us. The truth is Diang is terribly poor; our land is so small: we are actually deprived,” she said.
The Committee agreed more needs to be done by all stakeholders concerned. Prior to the stakeholders’ meeting, the Committee visited both sites of Rimco and Central Mining located about 37 miles outside Kabala.
By Elias Bangura
Stay with Sierra Express Media, for your trusted place in news!
© 2014, https:. All rights reserved.