Illegal Chinese shipment of iron ore from Sierra Leone – raises questions of impropriety

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 03 February 2021:

As the people of Sierra Leone begin to come to terms with the twin shocks of the Auditor General’s Report and the scandalous revelations of reckless misappropriation of public funds under the Bio-led government, published by the investigative journalist – Chernor Bah, now comes another scandal – this time from the country’s Legislature about illegal iron ore export.

A visibly angry Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Hon. Chernor Maju Bah of the All People’s Congress, yesterday 3rd February, 2021, expressed utter surprise over what appears to be another violation of Sierra Leone’s laws in the management of the nation’s huge natural resources.

Hon. Bah spoke of how he got to know, through a Reuter’s publication, about the shipment of Iron Ore from the country’s Tonkolili Mines by a Chinese Mining Company, Kingho, whose mining agreement, he said, has not been ratified by Parliament.

“Mr Speaker, I was shocked when I read that the first Iron Ore shipment by Kingho Mining took place last Friday. I saw it through a publication by Reuters”, Hon. Bah said in the Well of Parliament.

He lamented that “there is no way we can ship Iron Ore without an agreement being ratified by this House, it should not happen Mr Speaker, it is unacceptable!”

The Opposition Leader in Parliament went on to say that there were no details pertaining to that shipment in question.

“Under what terms and conditions did they ship our Iron Ore”, he asked, adding that “We don’t have any details; we don’t know the quantity of tailings on the ground; we don’t know under which conditions they are going to take over [the mines]…”

But according to the Reuters report of 30 January, 2021 which the Honourable Member of Parliament referred to, the Tonkolili mines has “estimated resources of 13.7 billion tonnes,” and this opaque and illegal shipment comes on the back of a huge “surge in the price of Iron Ore, $155.64 a tonne, believed to be a record high”.

Hon. Bah emphasised that the iron ore being illegally exported belongs to the Government of Sierra Leone along with the rail on which it was transported; yet, there was no clarity regarding what the people of Sierra Leone stand to benefit from either the use of their rail nor the export of their natural endowment.

What is baffling is the fact that the Sierra Leone’s Peoples Party ( SLPP) government of Julius Maada Bio campaigned to deepen transparency and accountability and had cancelled the contract of the previous owner,  Shandong Iron and Steel Group – China’s state – backed company, which bought the mine in 2015, on the claim of seeking better terms for the country.

But while Sierra Leoneans may have been awestruck by disturbing revelations by the country’s Auditor General Reports and Chernor Bah’s Africanist Press of the blatant siphoning of funds from the national purse and those set aside for the fight against COVID -19; there appears to be no respite in the malaise.

Bemoaning what appears to be a recurrent act of complicity, financial indiscipline, misappropriation and downright sleaze, Hon Bah said, “It looks like we are back to business as usual.”

A lawyer of high standing, Hon. Bah further argued that there was no legal basis upon which even the President, in the exercise of his Executive powers, could have authorised such shipment.

“If you go to Section 40 of the Constitution, the provision is very clear that even when he [President] delegated, any treaty or agreement by or under his authority still needs to be ratified by this House”.

“I urge you Mr. Speaker, to summon the Minister of Mines to explain to Parliament the terms and conditions under which the last Friday Kingho shipment was made”, Hon. Bah said. In the meantime, he demanded the halting of all shipment by Kingho until an agreement has been ratified by Parliament.

This is Chernor Bah in parliament yesterday:

5 Comments

  1. The question that I have is, what is the purpose of these findings when at the end of the day no one is being held accountable for them? Seems like there is a weekly pattern of extreme cases of corruption that government officials are involved in, but not once has the outcome been arrests and serving serious jail time of those who are supposedly involved in them. In many instances, the accused is simply rotated from one governmental occupation to another. Is it merely a matter of ultimately not having enough evidence to throw the book at these men/women, or are they flat out being wrongfully accused? If so, then we can allude that “corruption”, in the way that it is being described to us, is simply not the reason why our people are forced to live under such extreme conditions.

  2. Why do people like playing cheap politics where politics should not be played, and I am talking about the bread and butter issues, the health care delivery and infrastructural development of a country or nation. The APC leader in Parliament Honorable Bah is misleading people in the country to score cheap point. Like another contributor in this thread said, Iron ore cannot be mined and smuggled easily. If the APC leader actually wants to help stop corruption, he should have nip anything illegal about this iron ore shipment by Kingho before it happened. In this glorious paper, the Sierra Leone Telegraph, it was reported in October last year that Kingho Company which was granted license is to start shipment of iron ore in December 2020. This was a bit delay and was done in January this year see https://www.thesierraleonetelegraph.com/chinas-kingho-investment-to-start-shipment-of-iron-ore-in-sierra-leone-by-december-2020.

    In September 2020, an SLPP Parliamentarian, Hon Tawa Conteh had asked Parliament put a temporary stop to the activities of Kingho Company, asking for certain issues to be clarified including monies they owe to the country as tax before 2018. Honorable Bah was in that sitting and to the surprise of many who do not know, the parent company of Kingho the Chinese mining company was granted licence to operate in Sierra Leone for 25 years in 2012. Honorable Bah was head of the negotiation then, to grant that licence as a member of the EITI that was formed in 2009.

    That notwithstanding after the temporary ban in September 2020 and the appearance of the Director of the NMA before parliament on the operation of Kingho, with Hon. Bah in attendance, the issues raised by parliament were clarified and Kingho was permitted to go ahead with its operations. There was a lot of fanfare about the lunching of their operation which was reported in other Sierra Leone newspapers. See for example this article in the politico at: https://politicosl.com/articles/kingho-takes-over-tonkolili-mines-sierra-leone
    At all the deliberations in parliaments and the previous mining license granted to the parent company of the group by the old Parliament, Hon. Bah was part and parcel of everything. Therefore it behooves that Hon. Bah can go to parliament with a hidden camera to record as he tell lies to the people of the country. Worst still he went ahead to subsequently share such lies on social media to further mislead and misrepresent the fact to the gullible and lazy readers. This is a clear sign of desperation and one cannot go so low to misrepresent the title Honorable. Thank God we papers like The Sierra Leone Telegraph which report it as it is without any hidden agenda.

    • May God bless you for bringing light into this Forum. You are highly welcome here anytime. Most of us only read and forget quickly, that is why most of such reports become news to us though they are not. Most of these things are just propaganda.

    • But Mr Seneth Brown,if your assertions are anything to go by, why didn’t the parliamentarians who were there with Mr Bah when the agreement were being made,come out and condemned him for hypocrisy? You see, though common sense is always common but in many cases doesn’t seem so at all.You are giving out instances of websites where reports of agreement were reached with the parliamentarians in which Chernoh Bah fully participated.But what you failed to realise is that,to participate in an ongoing agreement doesn’t mean it was fully agreed upon. There could be a half way agreement down the line but perhaps who knows the other side didn’t completely go through the final agreement process,that causes the other side to react. As it is happening so now in parliament.

      Looking at the level of seriousness this issue garners I don’t think Mr Chernoh Bah, given the level of knowledge he has in parliament will stoop so low just to score political points as you have claimed. So for us to be able to get to the bottom of this,and to fully understand why all this is happening, let’s wait and see. Since chernoh Bah has asked the speaker of the House to put halt to any further shipment,let the mining company, mines minister and all those that participated in the granting of the “license to mine” come and rebuke Chernoh for being a liar and a hypocrite. Only then we will know who is telling the truth – ok?

  3. Since the start of the just concluded commission of inquiry(COI), most members and supporters of the destructive AYAMPI PEOPLES CONGRESS (APC) party became mentally deranged. Now that the deadline for the repayment of their looting has expired, they are now throwing all types of SH*T on the wall hoping some will stick dreaming that they will not be held accountable. Elections have consequences, so they first have to win before they can set up their own COI, but for now they have no option but to respect the verdicts of the Nigerian, Ghanaian and Sierra Leonean judges otherwise face the full penalty of the law. Based on the link below, I hope they will come back to their senses about this opportunity that our citizens are now enjoying.
    https://www.thesierraleonetelegraph.com/chinas-kingho-mining-takes-over-tonkolili-iron-ore-mining-operations-in-sierra-leone/

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