September 12, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
Chiefdom Speaker of Gbense Chiefdom in the Kono district, Chief A.M. Kamanda, has said in an interview that all mining agreements are done by the central government without the inclusion of local chiefs, which according to him leads to serious misunderstanding between company officials and local residents.
Kono district, where the widely talked about 709-carat diamond was recently found, is in the eastern region of Sierra Leone. It was once referred to as the ‘Botswana’ of Sierra Leone.
Chief Kamanada, who was recently speaking in an interview with Concord Times in Koidu Town, in Kono, said all the mineral rights are with the central government who has the mandate to go into mining agreements with mining companies.
“The central government even issue mining licenses and provide mining companies with concession areas before they could come to the provinces. Local residents, stakeholders, including land-owners can only benefit from royalties and corporate social responsibilities, which most mining companies sometimes shy away from doing,” he said.
He said they are always surprise to see people undertaking artisanal mining in the chiefdom without the consent of community authorities.
“That is why we have been hearing lots of grumbling that people do not have access to land in Kono district. We want mining companies to first dialogue with land owners and chiefs, and if an agreement is reached, the chiefdom authorities would take the agreement document to the government for approval but that has not been happening,” he said, adding that chiefs are only aware of mining companies when they enter into agreement with government and later introduce themselves and their concessional areas to chiefs.
According to Chief Kamanda, such state of affairs seriously affects them in many ways, including being unable to achieve food security in the district as most farmers are afraid to farm on certain lands fearful that some mining company arrive and claim ownership.
The Chiefdom Speaker continued that local residents used to benefit immensely from artisanal mining, noting that such was not now the case.
“Artisanal mining started in 1956 and government was supporting the artisanal miners by providing machines to licence holders in order to aid their mining activities. But that has not been happening now. There were wardens who monitored miners and if they found a diamond it will be taken to the Diamond Cooperative in Kenema where it would be sold and the proceeds given to the miners,” he narrated.
In order to boost artisanal miners and food security in Kono district, Chief Kamanda suggested that government must include chiefs and land-owners in some of the mining agreements.
“The chiefs would be in the capacity to tell government areas that are left for farming and artisanal mining. Areas would be demarcated for multi-national investors so that there will be no conflict in our chiefdoms,” Chief Kamanda said.