November 28, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
Paramount Chief of Timidale Chiefdom, Joseph B.S. Solongnie, has alleged that the mining operation of Vimetco has destroyed boats and fishing nets belonging to fishermen in his chiefdom, worth over one hundred million Leones (Le100m).
He claimed that the company has done nothing to address the situation.
Timidale Chiefdom is situated in Moyamba District, Southern Sierra Leone, and its inhabitants are predominantly fishermen and fishmongers.
Vimetco is company registered in Romania that started mining bauxite in Moyamba district in 2010.
P.C. Solongnie told this medium last Saturday that, boats that transport bauxite to the ship have been destroying fishing nets and boats.
“The destruction has taken place twice recently; the first incident was on September 13 and the second was on October 15 this year. The challenge now is that one Mr. Mohamed has sued a fisherman to court, alleging that the latter has to pay him ninety million Leones (Le90m) for his fishing gadgets. The fisherman in turn has claimed that the said gadgets have been destroyed by the mining activities of Vimetco,” he explained.
He claimed that the total cost of damage caused was one hundred and thirteen million and sixty thousand Leones (Le113, 060,000), noting that most fishermen in the chiefdom rely on loans to purchase fishing gadgets.
He narrated that quite recently one of the boats belonging to Vimetco collided with a fishing boat, and that former failed to rescue fishermen aboard the latter.
Vimetco’s Community Affairs Manager, Joseph Amadu, in an interview last Sunday in Mogbewo town, admitted they had received complaints from the Paramount Chief about the destruction of fishing gadgets.
“P.C. Solongnie alleged that the total amount of the fishing gadgets that were destroyed was over Le100m. In a meeting hosted in Moyamba town and in the presence of the District Officer, Office of National Security (ONS) Coordinator, I negotiated that we pay them 50% of that amount but we have not reached a conclusion,” he said.
He said the route used by their boats is unauthorised for artisanal fishermen to use, but claimed that in most cases the latter pretend not to know.
“That was the first time that one of our barges, which pushes the boat/thug to the main ship, sank. We made an official report to the government through the Maritime Administration and they have come to see the damage caused. It was this barge that local fishermen complained had destroyed some of their fishing gadgets,” he said.
Amadu maintained that in term of compliance, Vimetco has been doing exactly what government says, adding that they have established a community development agreement (CDA) while they award scholarships aspart of their corporate social responsibility.