Sierra Leone’s mining sector in focus: 2018 – 2021

National Minerals Agency (SL): Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 March 2021:

In April 2018, His Excellency, Retired Brigadier Dr Julius Maada Bio became President of Sierra Leone, and, among other things, he promised to transform the minerals sector. The Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources (MMMR) and the National Minerals Agency (NMA) are spearheading the transformation drive.

Achievements made so far include the following:

Mining Companies

In January 2018 there were six large-scale mining companies (mining rutile, ilminite, bauxite and diamonds) operating in Sierra Leone. In March 2021 there are now eleven large-scale mining companies (mining gold, diamonds, zircon bauxite, iron-ore and rutile) in Sierra Leone.

The five new large-scale mining companies in operation are MEYA Mining Company, Wongor Investment Mining Company, Sierra Diamonds Mining Company, Kingho Mining Company and Cheng Li Mining Company.

In January 2018 there were seven small-scale mining companies operating in Sierra Leone. In March 2021 there are now thirteen small-scale mining companies operating in Sierra Leone.

In January 2018 there was only one industrial gold mine operating in Sierra Leone. In March 2021 there are nine industrial Gold mines (6 small-scale and 3 large-scale) operating in Sierra Leone.

In January 2018 there were two mineral sand (rutile, zircon, coltan, etc.) mines operating in Sierra Leone. In March 2021 there are six mineral sand mines operating in Sierra Leone.

Mineral Export and Revenue

According to data from Statistics Sierra Leone (SSL), the mineral exports for 2019 was USD 430 million, accounting for about 62% of total exports. In 2020, mineral export was circa USD 313 million, and accounted for 48% of total exports from Sierra Leone.

Total revenue to the Government of Sierra Leone, from mining, was USD 56 Million (2018), USD 61 million (2019) and USD 44 Million (2020), the reduction mainly due to the COVID 19 Pandemic.

Employment

Total number of Sierra Leoneans employed by mining companies in January 2018 was 8,552; and total number of Sierra Leoneans employed by mining in March 2021 is 9,683. With Kingho Mining Company, Cheng Li Mining Company, Sierra Diamonds Limited and Supreme Minerals Limited mining companies currently recruiting, this number is expected to increase significantly in the short term.

Employment of Sierra Leoneans by large-scale mines and their contractors is expected to be around 13,500 employees by end of 2021, up from 8,000 in December 2020.

Employment of Sierra Leoneans by Small-scale mines and their contractors is expected to be around 2,000 employees (direct and indirect) by end of 2021, up from 1,200 in 2020.

Data Collection and Management

In 2019, the GoSL successfully conducted a high-resolution, low-altitude airborne geophysical survey of the entire country to locate potential new minerals. The data is a key component of the country’s strategy to encourage investment for development, employment creation, economic growth and accelerate transformation.

The NMA in-house Directorate of Technology and Information Management (DTIM) is developing and deploying an Enterprise Geoscientific Information Management System (eGIMS) to capture, store, manage, analyse and share all mining related geoscientific and social development data and information.

Governance Reforms

In May 2019, the Government of Sierra Leone introduced three new policy documents: Sierra Leone Mineral Policy; Geo-data Management Policy; and Artisanal Mining Policy. These policies aim to attract private investments in exploration and mining; emphasize integration of the mineral sector with the rest of the national economy; establish a transparent fiscal regime that balances benefits with investments competitiveness; support mineral beneficiation and marketing; guide investors towards sustainable exploitation of mineral resources of Sierra Leone in a win-win-win manner; and ensure all Sierra Leoneans obtain maximum benefits from the country’s mineral resource endowments.

As part of the institutional and process restructuring, the GoSL is also currently carrying out a comprehensive and urgent review of the Mines and Minerals Act of 2009 (MMA 2009) and the National Minerals Agency Act of 2012.  Almost eleven years on from the original passage of the MMA 2009, this is the most opportune time to ensure that the MMA 2009 is updated and its provisions are comprehensive and clear and fully underpin the legal and governance structure of the entire extractives sector.

The NMA has upgraded the Mining Cadastre Administration System (MCAS) to improve transparency in the process for awarding mining licences and contracts and the administrative oversight of the mines and minerals sector.

The NMA has recruited 274 Mines Compliance Officers to monitor the operations of all mining companies and prevent illegal mining and smuggling of precious minerals.

The NMA has recruited Draft Surveyors to monitor in real time, all shipments of minerals from the country.

Community Development

Eight mining companies (i.e. Sierra Minerals Holdings Limited; Sierra Rutile Limited; Koidu Limited; Dayu Mining Company; Sierra Diamonds Limited; Kingho Mining Company; Wongor Investment and Mining Corporation; and MEYA Mining Company) have all signed Community Development Agreements (CDAs) with their host communities. Under the CDA, a fixed percentage of revenue from the mining operation will be used to implement development projects in the communities.

Mining companies have contributed over Le 20 billion to implement development projects in their host communities since 2018. Such projects include a multi-purpose building and market centre in Lower Banta Chiefdom – Moyamba District; three schools in Kenema district; three schools in Kono district; etc.

Mining Companies have paid the following amount as surface rents to landowners across the country: In 2018 Le 12 billion; in 2019 Le 13.8 billion; and in 2020 Le 13.9 billion.

Future Direction

The NMA is strengthening its monitoring and compliance mechanisms and tools to enhance transparency and accountability in the mines and minerals sector. The NMA is committed to achieving the strategic objective to improve the governance and management of the mining sector, including value addition for employment, poverty reduction, community benefit, environmental rehabilitation, and revenue generation.

The NMA has developed a five-year strategic plan to consolidate the achievements made so far. This NMA Strategic Plan 2020-2025, provides the strategic framework for the Agency, in full alignment with the strategic objectives and targets set in Sierra Leone’s Medium-term National Development Plan 2019-2023 (SLMNDP) and the policy commitments outlined in the Sierra Leone Minerals Policy 2018 (Minerals Policy), to contribute to achieving Sierra Leone’s long-term vision for broad-based sustainable growth and transformational development.

The purpose of this Strategic Plan 2020-2025  is to strengthen the Agency’s catalytic and strategic role in significantly contributing to the national economy and broad-based sustainable development through:  

  1. Strengthened governance and legislative frameworks to improve regulatory, oversight and institutional capacities (Strategic Goal 1);
  2. Increased geoscientific information and knowledge to facilitate and nurture human resource development and skills formation (Strategic Goal 2);
  3. Increased revenue generation to catalyse and contribute to broad-based sustainable development (Strategic Goal 3);
  4. Empowered Sierra Leoneans and enhanced communication to increase public awareness and participation (Strategic Goal 4); and
  5. Improved safety and resilience in the communities to enhance sustainability (Strategic Goal 5).

This Strategic Plan provides a formalised management tool and road map that spells out where the NMA is going over the next five years (2020-2025) and how it will get there.

This ambitious vision is being realised through a renewed collective will and re-booted relationships that are not contaminated with historical perceptions and legacies of corruption.

Author: Sierra Leone National Minerals Agency, Communication Unit, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

3 Comments

  1. If the statistics given is credible and acceptable then I can say there is work-in-progress. The hue and cry about this government bad policy for the mineral sector may come to a slow end.

    When my president, your president, our president Dr. Julius Maada Bio first talked about geospatial survey by airborne technology, oppositions as well as those people sitting on the fence were doubting how is the dream of the president going to be realized. Few years along the line in his reign, if we can go by the records of statistics, and verifying it to be true from our various communities where these companies operate we need to give credence to our leadership his government and parliament for their work. Thank you sir.

    “If people are doubting how far you can go, go so far that you can’t hear them anymore” a quote by Ruiz.

  2. We move with the new direction but, we the youths that went through Tech Voc need jobs. The Pa prezo – you have to push on for the youths that have skills and certificates to be employed.

  3. Yes it is about time we restructure the mining sector, which is a vital component of our country’s economic output. This article seems to compare this government performance to the last APC government. We cannot keep comparing apples to apples. We should look ahead, because COVID19 has thrown us in to different pathways of economic challenges facing us in the future. Demand for some of these commodities have been hit hard due to COVID19 restrictions. What matters to Sierra Leoneans is the end results. The question then becomes: Has the increase in investment and mining activities, made any difference to the welfare and standards of living of our people in general? It’s too early to draw any conclusions.

    Maybe it would be far better if government integrate and enhance their operations for the benefit not only for the mining companies but the communities in the mining areas as a whole. Sometimes the communities that suffer environmental degradation as a result of this mining activities are left hung to dry both by the government and mining companies. In effect they share very little benefit of the asset buried in their backyards. Since mining companies are more flexible in strategic planning and implementation,and easily accessible to locals on the ground, it is easy for them to cut out the middle man and collaborate directly with local communities.

    In effect this social responsibility by the mining sector is the only sustainable way of maintaining productivity. And protecting the environment, quality of life of locals, providing jobs, education and rendering assistance in cases of disasters. Some will say, mining companies are just paying back what they took from the communities. Well not all mining companies operating with a degree of moral fibre high in their agenda. Yes some companies do what they think is right and their responsibility towards the communities they operate. Others are forced to do what is required of them. That is why its good to have company employees that act as local ambassadors, that speak directly and collaborate with local communities. For far to long government has failed us in that front.

Tell us about your views

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.