Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 May 2021:
Sierra Leone, one of the poorest nations in the World despite an abundance of mineral resources valued at Trillions of Dollars, has announced new discovery of massive deposits of kimberlite diamond, iron ore, gold, bauxite, rutile and nickel. This was revealed in a speech delivered by President Bio early this week – Monday, 24th May, at the launching of geo-data produced by the country’s Minerals and Mines Agency.
Speaking at the event, President Bio said: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased therefore to announce that the outcome of the airborne geophysical survey confirms the occurrence of more Kimberlites, Bauxite, Iron Ore, Gold, Rutile, and Nickel. It also provides high-resolution geological information with untold potential for targeting rare earth elements such as Cerium and Neodymium; battery metals such as Lithium and Graphite; Base metals; Platinum Group Metals; ethically sourced Coltan, and a range of other internationally desirable commodities for low carbon and digital technologies.”
It is expected that, if these new discoveries are properly managed, and corruption and poor governance kept at bay, the people of Sierra Leone should come out of poverty by 2030, with each region having its own state of the art hospital, good roads, modern educational institutions, high growth industries, good quality housing, clean and safe drinking water, as well as access to reliable supply of electricity.
This is the full statement of President Bio delivered at the event:
“Let me once again welcome you to the launch and exhibition of the Geodata of Sierra Leone’s first ever airborne geophysical survey. Welcome to our peaceful democracy. Welcome to our beautiful and scenic Sierra Leone. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across the world. We were proactive and we have remained vigilant. We are a low-risk nation, but we will continue working harder using our home-grown expertise and technology solutions, resources, and the support of friends to continue working our way down toward comprehensive vaccination and prevention measures.
But more importantly, COVID-19 has shattered the economies of countries. The mining sector has not been spared as investment financing constraints, supply chain and production disruptions, and low output have slowed down new developments and investments in the sector. Thankfully, Sierra Leone has been spared the worst and we have stayed engaged with the Sierra Leone Chamber of Mines in the best interests of the sector.
The sector is assured that my Government is eager to work with and support current investors to amicably resolve and also manage their unique constraints. We are here always, and we are here for you in all ways.
To our guests, we are grateful for your presence and for your keen participation in this event. Your presence also reminds us that there is great interest in and immense value to our extractives sector especially given the new datasets that have been generated by the airborne geophysical survey.
I want to thank the World Bank for its staunch support through the Extractive Industries Technical Assistance Project 2 – EITAP 2. In both our New Direction Manifesto and our country’s Medium-Term National Development Plan, the components of the EITAP 2 project, as outlined earlier by the World Bank representative, are aligned with our strategic objectives to strengthen governance, knowledge, and sustainability of the extractives sector in Sierra Leone, and to maximise its contribution to our national development.
I also want to thank the Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Mineral Resources and its very eloquent Chairman, Honourable Saa Emerson Lamina. He has reminded us and appropriately so that “the minerals we have are not renewable minerals.”
Permit me, Honourable Chairman, to add that because they are not renewable, we must govern the extractives sector diligently so that it benefits our investors, our communities, the nation, and our environment. Let us use those non-renewable resources therefore as we may not have done in the last 90 years. Let us use them to facilitate inclusive and sustainable national development. I thank you for your leadership in championing progressive legislation for the extractives sector. Thank you.
I also want to thank the leadership, board, and staff of the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources and the National Minerals Agency. In spite of challenges and constraints, you continue to do a yeoman’s job and competently and assiduously so. The support by Reid Geophysics Limited has also been invaluable. Thank you.
I am not here to do a symbolic launch and walk away to my office. I am here to speak to friends, partners, and potential investors present and not present. I am here to share with you what we have done about the mining sector over the last three years.
I am also here to listen very keenly to your thoughts, ideas, and experiences. I want to assure you that we will create even more opportunities to sit down and talk; to think together; to cooperate; to reach consensus; and to work together to further develop the extractives sector and make it even more viable for investors and their shareholders, the Government, communities, and the country as a whole.
As I have always said, I want that relationship to be built on mutual trust with all parties being transparent, patient, and clear about pursuing a win-win outcome.
The Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources and the Director General of the National Minerals Agency informed us earlier that in 2018 we had six large-scale operations mining rutile, ilmenite, bauxite, and diamonds. In 2021, we now have eleven large-scale mining companies in operation mining diamonds and more metal ores.
The strategic plan of the National Minerals Agency has also been explained by the Deputy Director-General. The plan takes into account deficiencies in existing structures, technical skills and personnel, coordinating mechanisms, legislation, and activities. In totality, as the Deputy Director-General pointed out, we now have a strategy, plan of action, and documents that will help us move into the next phase of managing our extractives sector.
As noted earlier, our strategic plan is anchored in sub-cluster 2.6, “Improving Mineral Resource Management” of our Medium-Term National Development Plan. The cluster expands and leverages principles, strategies, and actions found in both the ECOWAS Mining Directive and the African Mining Vision.
Previous speakers have also provided the technical detail associated with the Nationwide Airborne Geophysical Survey. I am informed that because we used close-line spacing and low ground clearance, we have generated one of the best high-resolution countrywide geophysical data in the world.
The Director-General has highlighted that we now have a better understanding of the Geodata and the possible suite of 4IR technologies that are available for us to present and manage our Geodata. We have also crafted our nation’s first ever Geodata Management Policy.
But we have also been working on the ecosystem for win-win investments in the extractives sector. Our peaceful democracy has recently been selected to develop a Millennium Corporation Challenge Compact for consistently passing the control of corruption indicator, ruling justly, and for respecting economic freedoms. Our laws and regulations that protect investments meet international best standards. From the perspective of the country’s best interests and those most affected by mining activities, my Government works to promote transparent, fair, and equitable agreements.
Sierra Leone is also fully compliant with international transparency mechanisms for the extractives sector. We made history as the first country to adopt the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to regulate the trade in diamonds and we have been fully compliant ever since. Sierra Leone is also fully compliant with the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative and we maintain an online repository to ensure transparency in the licenses administration and management process.
Even in the midst of COVID-19, international financial institutions have praised our handling of the macroeconomic fundamentals and our public financial management. Inflation is down into single digits for the first time in six years and the value of our currency has relatively stabilised against regional currencies.
Our reserves have grown over the last three years. Although overall debt distress is rated as “high,” the International Monetary Fund has praised my Government’s strong commitment to implementing reforms and making debt servicing sustainable. We are averse to resource-backed dark debts because we believe it is a public finance risk.
We have indeed worked very hard over the last three years to make the fiscal space for mining investments transparent, fair, stable, and predictable. The Extractives Industries Revenue Act and the Finance Act are comprehensive documents. We are committed to making more progress and making that fiscal space very competitive in the West Africa region.
By all traditional measures of political risk, Sierra Leone is a stable and peaceful democracy where we hold elections in predictable and peaceful elections cycles. According to the Global Peace Index, we are the fifth most peaceful country in all of Africa, and along with Ghana, we are the top two most peaceful countries in West Africa. We have moved up ten places in World Press Freedom rankings. No journalist is in prison for the practice of journalism and the safe, open, and secure practice of journalism is assured.
As a Government, we respect the sanctity of life and we are fully committed to abolishing the death penalty. We have been favourably cited by international institutions and other countries for our work on gender, inclusion, and child rights especially for investing in people and in the right to inclusive quality education. We have set up a statutory and Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion and we are closely engaged with civil society.
Over the last three years, we have undertaken comprehensive institutional reforms in order to make our institutions more effective. We have worked to remove red tape and streamline processes. The Vice President and I are closely involved with the National Investment Board and we can assure friends that we are always available and most willing to unlock bottlenecks.
We are harmonising laws and policies in order to avoid duplications and conflicting mandates across Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs). We want them also to work speedily to help potential investors set up, resolve initial and ongoing issues, and be able to report a pleasant experience to other potential investors.
The Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources has been authorised to engage very closely with the Sierra Leone Chamber of Mines. Let us keep working together. Henry Ford, the great American industrialist, once said “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
My Government wants to work together with the Chamber of Mines to resolve potential issues, respond to concerns, and listen keenly to recommendations from Chamber members on how best we can work towards mutually beneficial win-win outcomes in the sector.
My argument is simple. If you are looking for a safe, stable, and supportive country in which to invest in the extractives sector, look no further. Sierra Leone is that prime destination. We have stated the urgent need for integrated infrastructure to be developed around the mining sector.
There are real opportunities for a robust modern energy system to underpin the expansion of the mining sector and also facilitate processing and value-addition in-country. The “dig and ship-away raw” approach to mining has not been as beneficial to our small economies. We also believe that integrated infrastructure development can be catalytic for development beyond the mining sector.
As a country, Sierra Leone is also keen on working with partners who are interested in sustainable investing and who are mindful of environmental, social, and governance issues. We have worked hard to sanitise the sector. We expect that our friends who wish to operate in the sector share our values of open disclosures, so all parties avoid unpleasant surprises and adversarial relations. Also, we expect that our investors are patient, and they are or will be vested in the sector for a long time.
While they are here and making positive returns for their shareholders, they should also be mindful of the long-term impact of their work and presence on local communities and their Sierra Leonean workforce. They should not also forget that community development and corporate social responsibility are essential elements of their responsibility to local communities.
We insist on local content in all its forms. Health and occupational safety, labour relations, and skills training for Sierra Leoneans are all very important to us as a Government and as a country.
We are also mindful of the negative impact of the entire mining cycle on the land, water, air, ecosystems, and human health. Inasmuch as we are flexible on the payment of costs for environmental liabilities, we expect that investors are fully committed to ecosystem risk management, mine closure and rehabilitation issues, and the management of water from their operations, among a host of environmental concerns.
Indeed, I am in accord with the Chairman of the NMA when he called for “a thoughtful and responsible approach to mining” and also for “sustainable alternative livelihoods for our mining communities.” In essence, my call is that we balance the making of healthy profits with responsibility for the footprint of the investment on the environment, workers, and communities.
So, when we say Sierra Leone is the best destination for your mining investment portfolio, it is because we have made great progress on making the sector conducive for investment.
As a nation, we have announced our commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. We have also associated with green development initiatives. We believe that a low to zero carbon future is possible. In this digital age, there is an insatiable global appetite for metals that support low carbon technologies. Sierra Leone stands ready to contribute to the global supply of those metals.
The real value of this comprehensive geoscientific data and information, as previous speakers have intimated, is that it will effectively cut down on time, costs, risks, and preparatory work for both greenfield mine start-ups and brownfield mine reworks. But this high-quality dataset also provides valuable information for hydrological, environmental, infrastructure, and agricultural management.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased therefore to announce that the outcome of the airborne geophysical survey confirms the occurrence of more Kimberlites, Bauxite, Iron Ore, Gold, Rutile, and Nickel. It also provides high-resolution geological information with untold potential for targeting rare earth elements such as Cerium and Neodymium; battery metals such as Lithium and Graphite; Base metals; Platinum Group Metals; ethically sourced Coltan, and a range of other internationally desirable commodities for low carbon and digital technologies.
Let me, therefore, conclude by welcoming you to this formal launch, urge you to network and ask questions, and encourage you to consider investing in the huge resource potential indicated by the result of our nation’s first ever airborne geophysical survey. With this, I now formally launch the Geodata and declare its associated exhibition open. I thank you.” (END)
Normally I keep my thoughts but H.Es speech incentives me to do so going forward. Objective contributions will always help in our situation. Certainly our beloved country is way behind in the development strata in Africa. Although we rightly claim we have these resources we still wonder why we are not benefitting enough. While we blame it on corruption by our compatriots, from closer examination, I will add that most African mining investments are also corrupt. I have been opportuned to work for one of our existing Multinationals and I interacted directly with Shareholders many times. My experience shows there are good shareholders who mean well for the country but often it is the external Operations Management on site who create the environment for corruption. A COO was fired for over shooting the Expat/Local Sr level employment statutory target in the name of our preposterous “lack of local reausit skills”. He did so at a time when commodity prices were bullish and production was booming too. Unfortunately few years down the line price slumped while production struggled.
Operating cost unbearably swelled while he insistently kept the same expert levels. This led to a mad rush by the shareholders to sell off. Sierra Leoneans are presently terminated without requisite Terminal benefit. Training and development of local staff to face the huge challenges of capacity building in the mining sector is weak. Experts are kept longer than required as they are permitted to go on without preforming their key role of capacity building. These are just a few examples directly affecting compatriots who are the very front runners that generate the much needed revenue that HE The President was talking about. On a bigger picture some countries (example Australia) have still not joined/ratified the EITI(Executive Industry Transparency Initiative) and yet companies registered on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) are operating in our country. According to EITI standards annual reports from an EITI member country should be compared with that of respective Stock Exchange reports of the parent country to hilight and resolve discrepancies.
In recent reports of credible Organizations familiar with monitoring the EITI process Sierra Leone is believed to be
losing substantial revenue from the mining industry. While we welcome the good work already going on the government needs to be more robust and smarter, to injects actions such as inclusion of Sierra Leoneans with first hand experience in the Mining industry as a new strategy. The 2030 target set by HE The President is achievable and I know he did not mince his words when he said ‘I have not come here to……. and walk away to my office. I want to encourage colleague Sierra Leoneans that this time we as citizens should get involved positively to make this long awaited dream to come reality. So permit me to end my thoughts with a few questions:
-when do we hope to witness a fair justice in the extractive sector for local stakeholders?
-when do we see Sierra Leone owning at least 20% shares in current and future companies? Note that this gives the Right for Sierra Leoneans to be part of the Board of Directors which makes strategic decisions. By now hope we know diamond companies like DEBSWANA, co-owned by Debears and the Government of Botswana and the benefits to stakeholders,a bright example of a true Win-Win mensioned in above speech.
-How many Sierra Leoneans are given standard industry training with a vision to replace experts in the near future? I encourage the Government to look into the capacity building aspect as this was a huge drive in the past that led to Sierra Leoneans taking leadership roles in NDMC, pre-war SRL, etc.
We have to be aggressive (positively though) to improve especially our institutional base if we have to catch up with the huge influx of new mining companies into West Africa currently going on. I will love to see the Government taking the lead in Externally training professionals across the Extractive Industry value. Chain-Gemologists/precious mineral evaluator, Corporate Governance and green financing, etc.
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Our country’s exceptional good fortune of being endowed with a multiplicity of prized natural resources has most ironically turned out to be a curse rather a blessing. This is because those whose responsibility it is to manage the resources well for the general good have let the country down very badly. Indeed, where have the enormous riches extracted from our soil since our gaining political independence sixty years ago, all gone? What evidence is there to show that these riches once existed?
Bob Marley’s scornful words come readily to mind: ‘In the abundance of water the fool is thirsty’. Those managing the extraction and sale of our diamonds, iron ore and other precious minerals have clearly taken the whole country for a ride. Here we are perennially dependent on the largesse of outsiders while our soil, full of riches to bursting point, keeps giving but only for those gifts to vanish into thin air, or rather, into the bottomless pockets of the few among us that we have asked to manage them to our collective advantage.
What then is the point of rejoicing on hearing that new deposits of the minerals have been discovered? Being poor in the abundance of mineral wealth that many a country can only dream of, is inexcusable; it is an abomination – a national tragedy.
The fundamental question is this: What overall progress has been made using the natural resources that have been mined for decades? Huge diamonds have gone missing between State House and Lungi Airport. With government connivance our natural wealth is being smuggled out of the country constantly and consistently by both foreigners and Sierra Leoneans. There has never been a case when anyone has been successfully prosecuted and severely punished for trying to smuggle anything out of our country. Some of the smuggling is done right in front of the nose of the government. Take our Iron Ore for example, how does the government verify the quantity being shipped out by SL Mining to determine what payment the nation should receive? Or is it a case of the nation being given a bogus figure to help the government pocket the difference between the real figure and what is publicly revealed?
If in three years plus Maada Bio is struggling to find the steering wheel of his “new direction “ vehicle, what confidence should the nation place in him that the discovery of new minerals has found him capable and ready to build schools and hospitals? We have been shown and led through this path before and it carries no hope. We should only be trusting when undisguised evidence is in front of our naked, seeing eyes.
One would expect Bio’s good intentions to be displayed by negotiating a deal to revive the country’s railways with the miners of our Ore who already have a train to transport it to the Port at Pepel. In no time all much of the country should be reached to help ease the problems of transportation. I understand that the just departed Finance Minister, J J Saffa studied development Economics. He could have fooled me.
In days of yore, when I was struggling with the concepts of marketing. Our Marketing teacher, who was aptly named Marketing Kamara, taught us that carpenters and electricians earn more than lawyers and doctors, at least in the developed world. However, at the end of a 30 year period, these lawyers amd doctors were richer than the aforesaid electricians and carpenters.
Now, the reason for the above scenario was mainly based on how they utilized their income. Doctors amd their ilk tend to invest in houses, shares and savings, while carpenters bought 70 inch tv screens, expensive cars and went on expensive holidays.
The Gambia has only groundnuts, yet its currency’s exchange rate is 65 Dalasi to the British pound sterling. Now the issue is not the abundance of mineral resources, it is the optimum use of those resources, see Pareto’s law for students of economics.
Maybe for some people like Bio, this discovery of natural minerals buried in our soil, is news to him. For some of us Sierra Leoneans, this is old news. It never fails to amaze me how we go to a collective hysteria, to celebrate something we know exists all along, like the rivers that crisscross our country. Many countries will invade other countries to gain access to the sort of natural resources our country can boast of having. But fear not for a foreign military invasion. The real threat to our national development, is our fellow Sierra-leoneans that are born and brought up, and educated in our country.They are the occupation force, that is subjuncting us, and exploiting us for their own gains. What a state of affairs we found our country in the 21st century.
Instead of trying to develop our country, they choose to use our God given natural resources for their own selfish ends. We have been here several times. On valentine day in 1972, an alluvial daimond of 968 carats was discovered in Sierra Leone. It was the world fourth largest diamond ever discovered. Coming almost ten years after independence. Just like today, everyone was celebrating. Our road to economic development is unstoppable. By the 1990s, our country was tearing itself apart, by being engaged in a brutal civil war.
In 2017 Pastor Emmanuel Momoh discovered a 709 carat diamond. We celebrated. The point is our country is rich in human and natural resources, but lack the political leadership that will take us to the promise land. At the trial of former Liberian dictator, Charles Taylor, one of the charges he faced was, was in exchange for supporting the RUF, he was receiving jars full of diamonds, from Sam Bockarie. It was never heard of in an international criminal war crimes tribunal. Only Sierra Leoneans can use their country’s resources, to purchase arms and ammunition to kill and maim their fellow countrymen and women.
A Jeweller in Mumbai once showed a flawless piece of diamond to a circus clown and said to him; “With this my boy you can rule the whole world.” The clown laughed and replied; “But it is just an ordinary stone.” The Jeweller raised his voice and said; “No its not; countless men have died for this stone,some had their limbs cut off like chickens in a slaughter house for this precious stone.” Again, the circus clown responded;” For what reasons exactly Sir will men trade their lives just to be able acquire an ordinary stone?” The Jeweller shrugged his shoulders and said;” For ambition and greed; This precious stone,kiddo,belongs to millions of poor hungry people in Sierra Leone yet one man,very short, dressed in green was able to steal it in the darkness of the night,cross the oceans and sell it to me;”(lol
“Then we must give it back to the rightful owners;” the clown insisted. Leaders who are entrusted with the authority to rule over poor people, beggars and the disabled shouldn’t be allowed to rob them blind and get away with it. Do the right thing and give it back.”
Indeed,our leaders who are entrusted with the powers to rule over a poor suffering people should not be allowed to steal from them and get away with it, home free. Folks,hear this;finding acres and acres of diamonds is one thing but to be able to put it to good use for the benefit of our country is a different ball game completely. Imagine, for a minute, this corrupt, self conceited, inept SLPP President that has been busy,conniving with his wife, JJ Saffa to fleece the system and milk it totally dry now in control of our newly found natural deposits of Gold and Diamonds? O mercy,mercy me; The wolf that ransacked the farmers barn and got away with it, has now been appointed true custodian and caretaker over all that belongs to my beloved Sierra Leone. Folks, we are in big big Trouble.(lol)
“Every man credits himself with having consciousness during the wakeful state. He never questions the fact. He does not need anyone else to tell it to him”. Indeed Sierra Leone is in it wakeful state. The management of human affairs, the values of human society and the operations of human faculties are basic influences which necessarily shape human ideas or beliefs about our existence. The plan is supposed to arise in the mind as a thought, then, by stages, the thing is brought into existence.
In his three years of rule, my president, your president, our president H.E Julius Maada Bio is manifesting the real facts of what he promised this nation. The human capital development has been the echo from him. In ensuring that the human capital development is achieved, he is also helping to maintain the value of our society. The free education leads to provision of school buses, establishment of School teaching FM radio station; distribution of radios to pupil’s to hard reach radio communities so that these children can have access to the free radio teaching program. This has paid dividends in the outcome of public results in recent times. Health care delivery services by recruiting more health care workers with PIN codes. Also,H.E the president along side his government and parliament increased salaries for Lecturers and Medical Doctors as well as public servants by a few percent that look encouraging and acceptable by the society.
At least the fight against corruption is a welcome news with the latest being a preventative measure by the ACC to develop a compliance manual for MDAs. We’ve not reach that far, yet such a development is a stepping stone in the future advancement of our country Sierra Leone since independence. His goodwill to the people of Sierra Leone and the diaspora and empathy for all men enables him to experience their very being in his own heart. We all need to support him irrespective of our political atonement, religious beliefs, regional interests and ethnicity. May God bless Sierra Leone. Amen.
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