Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 November 2018:
After months of industrial action and upheaval at the Sierra Rutile mines in southern Sierra Leone, which started under the government of president Ernest Bai Koroma, president Julius Maada Bio and senior government ministers have moved one step closer to finding a negotiated settlement to the dispute.
According to report from State House, the president, vice president, the chief minister and key sector ministers, met with the leadership of the Workers Union and Sierra Rutile/Iluka leadership yesterday, Monday 26th November 2018, at State House.
The purpose of the meeting was to resolve the ongoing impasse between the Workers Union and Sierra Rutile/Iluka leadership, as part of Government’s efforts to provide the enabling environment for uninterrupted operations at the Sierra Rutile Mines. (Photo: President Bio and vice president Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh).
Rutile mining is the country’s largest single commodity export, and the dispute has seriously affected not only government revenue, but the local economy and households’ income.
Returning the rutile mines to normal production is crucial as the iron ore mining sector continues to remain dormant after the Chinese owners pulled out last year, leaving a massive shortfall in government revenue, with hundreds of workers out of work.
Following yesterday’s meeting which was aimed at resolving the rutile mining dispute, president Bio and his ministers were able to get the leadership of the Workers Union and Sierra Rutile/Iluka leadership to agree the following resolution:
- That there should be an immediate de-escalation of the impasse;
- That Sierra Rutile/Iluka leadership should positively engage, consult and dialogue with the Workers Union;
- That Sierra Rutile/Iluka leadership should reinstate the four (4) suspended Workers Union leaders;
- That Sierra Rutile/Iluka leadership should not suspend or sack the proposed fifty (50) workers involved in the strike action;
- That Sierra Rutile/Iluka leadership should abandon the plan to evacuate its international staff as there was no security threat to them;
- That Sierra Rutile should resume company operations as soon as possible and
- That His Excellency the President directed the establishment of a Special Task Force to investigate the fundamental grievances/concerns/issues of the workers, the Rutile Community and the Sierra Rutile/Iluka and make actionable recommendations
A return to normal production at Sierra Rutile will certainly boost the country’s economy, as the government looks to more foreign investors for the development of the tourism, fisheries, and agro-processing industries.
Sierra Leone needs an estimated $500 million to kickstart its ailing industries, so as to create jobs for the millions of people that are languishing in poverty.
The Bio-led SLPP government has only been in office for seven months. But expectations are high. And many in Sierra Leone are waiting impatiently for those jobs to arrive.