Dennis Kabatto: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 August 2019:
Mr. Foday Rado Yokie, minister of mines and mineral resources, said last Sunday’s reports of “cancelation or suspension of several mining licence” published in various reputable news organizations, including London Financial Times and Reuters are simply fictitious.
He made this disclosure in a social media (Messenger) exchange with Sierra Leone Telegraph’s US Correspondent – Mr. Dennis Kabatto on Sunday, 4th August.
Mr. Yokie (Photo) who was appointed minister of mines on May 9, 2019, is on record to have promised immediately after his appointment, to review all mining contracts in the country.
He also assured the people of Sierra Leone whom he said have endured protracted suffering, that under his watch, mining activities will be safeguarded; and ultimately revamp the mining sector so as to ensure it benefits all Sierra Leoneans.
Before his appointment by president Bio as minister of mines, Yokie represented Constituency 068 in the Bo District from 2007– 2017 in Sierra Leone Parliament, where he served in many committees including the Mines and Mineral Resources Oversight Committee. He was also a Special Trade Envoy of the Government of Sierra Leone.
This is an excerpt of last Sunday’s brief chat between minister Yokie and Dennis Kabatto:
Kabatto: The Financial Times of London reported that the Government of Sierra Leone has cancelled or suspended the licence of several major mining companies. Are these reports facts?
Yokie: I have cancelled Shandong Iron and Steel Group for not paying their dues to the government and people of Sierra Leone. We need serious investors and not ones that can hold on to our mineral wealth yet starving us from our dues as a nation. We inherited a challenging economy. So we need every cent to make lives better for the people of Sierra Leone. I have suspended exportation only but operations are ongoing with Sierra Leone Mining.
Kabatto: When did Shandong’s cancelation actually become effective?
Yokie: Shandong’s cancelation took effect since June 4th, 2019.
Kabatto: So, are you saying those news reports of several licence cancelations are inaccurate? How many licence were cancelled and which companies are affected?
Yokie: Not true. One cancelation and one suspension to export, while the Mining Licence Agreement is renegotiated; but the reports of cancelation and suspension of several mining licence and all other things reported in the news are fictitious.
Kabatto: Shandong Iron and Steel, owner of the Tonkolili project is pursuing litigation in Sierra Leone’s high court, arguing that the licence cancelation is invalid or illegal, after paying all its fees and royalties. What is the status of the case?
Yokie: Legal action by Shandong? Not to my knowledge.
Kabatto: Some economic observers say President Bio’s move to cancel mining licence will impede foreign investors and investments that the country badly need? Do you agree with that assessment?
Yokie: We are not scaring investors away, but we are only revisiting some Mining Licence Agreements. In my view, the people of Sierra Leone are not benefiting as expected from their mineral wealth. So, we need to change that narrative by renegotiating a better deal for our people. That is our sacred obligation, we owe it to the people of Sierra Leone.
Kabatto: Finally, the findings of the Report of the Government Transition Team (GTT) 2018 states that the previous APC administration signed two agreements with the management of Sierra Rutile Ltd., to amend the Sale and Purchase Agreement of Government Shares in the company. The Report concludes that former President Koroma and his nephew John Sisay subsequently sold the government’s 30% shares. Does the Bio administration plan to bring criminal charges for corruption against President Koroma and his nephew?
Yokie: Sierra Rutile is under investigation by the Commissions of Inquiry (COI). They will furnish the Government with their findings and recommendations.