December 12, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
Paramount Chief of Lower Banta Chiefdom, John Jibao Russell Nyama II, has frowned at Sierra Rutile Company for their ‘failure’ to sprinkle water on dusty roads, coupled with their action to withdraw bus services meant for school going children within their areas of operations.
Lower Banta Chiefdom is situated in Moyamba District, Southern Sierra Leone. Founded in 1971, Sierra Rutile Limited, which was renamed Iluka Resources Limited on 7th December, 2016 has since been mining rutile and zircon in Moyamba and Bonthe districts.
According to P.C. Russell, since Sierra Rutile Limited was taken over by Illuka Resources Limited, they have not been sprinkling water on dusty roads within their areas of operations, thus causing health hazards for many residents.
“When they started operations in the 1970s, the road was tarred but their activities have removed all the tar. The dust that emanates from the road as a result of the movements of their heavy duty trucks has been causing lots of problems for our people. To mitigate the problem, they used to sprinkle water on the road but they have not been doing so for months now,” he alleged.
The traditional ruler said the company earlier provided a bus service to convey pupils to their various schools, but expressed that management of the company has halted the said service for a year now.
“The effect of the company’s action ranges from late arrival in schools to sickness as a result of the inhalation of dusts, among others,” he said.
“There are more foreigners in managerial positions than Sierra Leoneans, thus the company’s authorities have undermined the local content policy in the country.”
However, Media Officer of Sierra Rutile/Illuka Resources Limited, Poindexter Sama, said the company has hired two water bowsers to be sprinkling water on all the dusty roads in their areas of operations.
“I can satisfactorily say they are working actively on daily basis to ensure that there is no dust on the road as a result of our activities,” he said.
In relation to the withdrawal of the bus service, Mr. Sama said it introduction was a trial case, revealing that an incident where some pupils barricaded the main road leading to the management quarters demanding a bus service.
“We are not proving bus service for pupils. The service we have is contracted to a private company which conveys our staff to and from work. But the private company did a trial to find out if it would be economically viable to transport pupils to and from school,” he said, noting that they later realised that it was not economically sustainable and they stopped.
In the area of foreign staff, he said Illuka has been scaling down on the number of expatriates, adding that prior to their take over there were 45 foreign staff but the number has been reduced to 40 and that plans were underway to scale down that figure further.
“There are many Sierra Leoneans in management positions here. We now have 95% workforce that are Sierra Leoneans. Illuka met over 200 casual workers who were working for three months and they were laid-off but all of them have been permanently employed,” he revealed.
Sama maintained the company has been fulfilling its corporate social responsibility, including in communities where Illuka management has bought and installed 10,000 litres of water in the mid of 2017.