Sierra Leone is blessed with abundant mineral resources like many other African countries in the sub-region. The country’s verse mineral resources however, have not been exploited utilized to benefit its people and the country as a whole. Mining communities remains in abject poverty, with poor infrastructure, poor health and educational facilities, high level of insecurity and human right abuses.
Sierra Leone’s new president however, in a bid to correct the situation, has promised to, among other things:
(i) review the Mines and Minerals Act 2009 as well as Mining Lease Agreements to realign with the Mining Policy and ensure it is consistent with international best practices (ii) enact the Extractive Industry Revenue Bill (iii) establish the Natural Resources Account for all revenues generated from extractives (iv) strengthen the National Minerals Agency (NMA) (v) allocate percentages of revenue from the mining sector to education, health and the general development of mining communities (vi) ensure full transparency in the sector through complying with the
Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) standards and provide updated and validated information on tax and other contributions from the mining sector to the government (vii) support value additions to our mineral resources with a view to generating jobs and additional income to Sierra Leoneans (viii) ensure that all mining companies comply with the local content policy and (ix) enforce corporate social responsibility in all mining activities.
The minerals sector comprising mostly diamonds, iron ore, bauxite, rutile, gold and mineral sands, is said to contribute about 24 percent to GDP and over
80 percent to export earnings but generates only 15 percent of its total revenues according to official figures from the ministry of finance. This is well below its potential.
The Natural Resource Governance and Economic Justice Network – Sierra Leone (NaRGEJ -SL) recognizes the strides of the government of President Julius Maada Bio so far since it came to power, including;
- Starting Geological Airborne survey supported by the World Bank
- Launching the three (3) Mineral Sector Policies: the ‘Sierra Leone Minerals Policy’, the ‘Artisanal Miming Policy’, and the ‘Geo -data Management Policy of Sierra Leone’
- Suspension of licenses of two large-scale mining companies
- The cancellation of the Shandong Mining Lease Agreement
While the above actions are in line with contributing to improving the governance of mining sector, NaRGEJ holds the view that more comprehensive actions with rights-based and people-centered processes are needed in order to respond more effectively to the critical nature of the problems besetting the sector. To this end, NaRGEJ recommends in furtherance of its 2 July 2018 submission to the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources government to:
- As NaRGEJ endorses the present suspensions and cancellations of Licenses, it also calls government to slam a moratorium on all large- scale mining companies until due diligence is done on all of them.
- An expedited transparent and participatory review of the Mines and Minerals Act 2009 is done ensuring that citizens (especially communities affected by mining, civil society, women, local authorities, people with disabilities, the youth, etc.) are adequately consulted. Minerals are public assets, and so the public has a right to have a say on all matters relating to it.
- Carry out a comprehensive review of the National Minerals Agency (NMA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the view to strengthening them to be effective.
- Present a well-articulated strategy and operational plan with time lines and targets/milestones of how government intends meeting the nine (9) commitments His Excellency the President Dr. Julius Maada Bio made to the people of Sierra Leone on the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament on Thursday, 10th May 2018.
- Government to make a clear statement on how concretely it intends to make good its commitment to using international standards and best practices in the mining sector with particular reference to the African Mining Vision (AMV), UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), etc.
The NaRGEJ Network is a collaborative initiative of groups and individuals in Sierra Leone working to secure economic and social justice through human rights in the natural resource sector. NaRGEJ seeks to facilitate joint actions, enhancing communication and building solidarity across regions, build a national movement to make responsible natural resource governance, human rights and social justice a reality for all.
Abu A. Brima – Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD)
Lavina Banduah (Mrs) – Transparency International Sierra Leone (TI-SL)