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As Mines Committee visits China Kingho sites…

Local workers report abuse, poor conditions of service

By Jariatu Bangura from Makelfa Chiefdom, Tonkolili

Sierra Leonean workers at China Kingho Exploration Company have reported abuse and expressed grave dissatisfaction over poor conditions of service and the state of facilities at the Chinese exploration company, which is operating in Makelfa chiefdom, Tonkolili district. This was during a tour by Members of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Mines and Minerals Resources.

The Committee was on a fact-finding mission to verify allegations of illegal mining in the district.

Speaking to our reporter, who was part of the tour entourage, local workers said they are not being treated humanely by their Chinese employers. They allege they are subjected to hard labour through day and night, and sometimes work for hours without sufficient food. They also lamented the state of toilet facility at the workers’ hostel, which was confirmed by our reporter, who saw firsthand the unsanitary conditions found therein.

“We work day and night without resting; if anyone takes up the challenge to rest, he or she will be dismissed from work. There is no medical facility for us workers and there is no separation of sleeping rooms for both male and female, we all sleep in the same room and that is totally unfair for these women,” they added.

Also, a visit to the hostel revealed crammed bedrooms which, compared to other companies, is an eyesore not fit for human habitation. The workers further revealed that they are not provided with medical aid and workers who become ill or are injured during drilling have to take care of their medication.

“I got injured while working at the site, but no treatment or medical fee was given to me for treatment to a nearby health centre,” said one of the workers who refused to be named for fear of getting the sack. “After I have gone for treatment upon my return someone has replaced me on my job and I have to wait for another space.”

The workers further claimed that the Human Resource Manager works in cahoots with the management of the company, and would most often than not ignore their complaints and pleas, even in cases of grave physical abuse such as when they are beaten by their Chinese colleagues.

“We have made several complaints to our middle-man who is the Human Resource Manager, that the Chinese people are flogging us without mercy even though pleas were made to them, but he thinks that if he intervenes his job will be at stake,” another worker said, adding that “no proper food, no proper toilet facility has been provided for us and even the place we take our bath is where also our food is being prepared.”

The workers said: “We call on the intervention of the government through the Ministries of Labour and Youth Affairs, and other stakeholders that value the lives of their youths in that part of the country as a lot of improvement has to be done in a way to foster the mining sector across the country and for its populace to benefit from it. I also urge members of the different (Parliamentary) Committees to visit the site regularly as their visit will help minimise the illegal operations carried out in this part of the country.”

On their part, the lawmakers noted the gross inhuman conditions at the mining site and the serious violations of workers’ rights, with a promise to further investigate the scandal.

Meanwhile, efforts to get the Human Resource Manager of Kingho for his response were futile.