Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 May 2021:
Last Monday, President Dr Julius Maada Bio presided over the launching of the GeoData commissioned by the National Minerals Agency (NMA) and financed by the World Bank. The GeoData maps the vast mineral wealth potential of Sierra Leone.
Welcoming participants to the event, Director General of NMA, Julius Daniel Mattai, said: “Ladies and gentlemen, this geodata launch and exhibition forms a critical part of our government’s agenda to rebuild confidence and attracting investment into the minerals sector of Sierra Leone. This maiden event provides a perfect setting for long-lasting and meaningful investment in this country and for its development”,
Mr. Mattai also said that Sierra Leone is endowed with abundant mineral wealth and natural resources but characterised by multidimensional poverty. He assured that the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources and his agency are working harder to see a turnaround and a much further inroad in terms of growth in the sector with large investment potential.
The outgoing World Bank Country Manager, Gayle Martin, commended the government of Sierra Leone for the progress that led to the launch of the GeoData. She said that the extractive sector is critical to the post-Covid-19 recovery, which she emphasised – if managed well could transform Sierra Leone’s economy.
She also noted that the GeoData was financed by the World Bank because they knew it would help lift people out of poverty, adding that the data would not only support the mining sector, but help other areas necessary for national development.
“Under the able leadership of President Bio, the government has embarked on a growth strategy that focuses on economic diversification. Economic diversification does not mean moving away from extractives, but rather to optimise the growth in other sectors to protect the economy from negative shocks,” Gayle noted.
Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Musa Timothy Kabba, said that his ministry has taken huge steps in acquiring the geological data which is critical for the optimisation of investments into the mining sector and its development.
He further stated that the geodata would serve a useful function in guiding government’s decision relevant to the exploitation of mineral wealth, adding that they are highly useful in shaping government’s strategy to move away from a ‘first-come-first-serve’ system in awarding mining contracts, to an open and transparent competitive bidding process.
“With this launch, Your Excellency, Sierra Leone has once again demonstrated, under your leadership, that it is a competitive destination in Africa for investment in the mines and minerals sector,” he noted.
In his keynote address, President Bio said: “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.”
The President also stressed that he was at the event to listen very keenly to people’s thoughts, ideas, and experiences.
“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.
“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,” he concluded.
President Bio thanked the World Bank for their staunch support through the Extractive Industries Technical Assistance Project 2 – EITAP 2, reminding them that in both the New Direction Manifesto and the government’s Medium-Term National Development Plan, the components of the EITAP 2 project, as outlined earlier by the World Bank representative, are aligned with the government’s strategic objectives to strengthen governance, knowledge, and sustainability of the extractives sector in Sierra Leone, and to maximise its contribution to national development.
“Permit me 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.
“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,” the president concluded.
In another development, President of China Kingho Energy Group, Colin Ding and his team paid a courtesy call on President Bio, just days after parliament voted to ratify a port and rail lease agreement that will facilitate the export of iron ore by the company.
“I want to thank the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources and the National Minerals Agency, NMA, for the launch, yesterday, of the Geodata. This will help all stakeholders in the mining sector to truly explore the rich minerals of the country,” Mr Ding said.
He told president Bio that Kingho will operate in the country, avoiding all sector-related environmental hazards and taking necessary precautions, adding that they will as a company also support mining communities with basic social amenities such as schools, hospitals and with mostly what would elevate local communities out of poverty.
“With your support, His Excellency, I hope that we will all work together for our shared values. I thank you very much,” he concluded.
President thanked the Kingho leadership for their visit and to share plans for the many actions both sides to the agreement have taken to restore the work of the company, adding that despite fear the company had started operations at an impressive pace.
”Thanks for not disappointing us. We now have a clear understanding of what Kingho is about and what they want to do, the revenue they will be collecting and the percentage of what the country will benefit from. We want to be able to add value to the raw materials and product of iron ore and we want this to be actualised in the shortest possible time. We will all work assiduously to achieve this plan,” he urged.
President also said that Sierra Leone and the China Kingho Energy Group are set to start a very successful business that would benefit both sides. He, therefore, assured that his government would ensure an enabling environment is provided for the company to operate, and in return the company too, would give back to the environment through their corporate social responsibility.