November 28, 2016 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Participants at the just concluded mining vision advocacy and capacity building workshop, hosted at Hotel Barmoi in Freetown, have recommended that government through the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources should include in the Mineral Policy gender sensitivity and empowerment, and that the policy should provide equal and appropriate representation of women and men at all levels in the mineral sector governance and management.
They urged the employment of women and production of a code of conduct, coupled with its enforcement, for mining personnel and professionals dealing with women and communities.
Also, they recommended that resettlement and fair community compensation should be strengthened, and that there should be open consultations in the development of a framework to addressing issues of compensation, resettlement, relocation, and surface rent, which they say should be included in contract negotiations and agreements.
The workshop was organised by Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), Oxfam, Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), Tax Justice Network-Africa (TJN-A), and the government of Sierra Leone.
It started on Monday, 21th November, 2016 and was attended by parliamentarians, officials from the Office of the President and Ministry of Mines, academics, civil society groups, community representatives and the media, all of whom worked on recommendations to be added in the new Sierra Leone Mineral Policy.
In his presentation on building social constituency for the country’s mining vision, Benjamin Boakye, Deputy Executive Director of the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), noted that bad mining policy in any country could lead to under-development and suffering in mining communities.
He said several mining communities, most often than not, do not benefit from proceeds of mineral extracted in their communities as the government would rather use those funds to develop cities with all the best facilities, which he said could sometimes prompt people living in those communities to migrate to cities and eventually lead to over populated city.
“It is clear that children in the cities enjoy ten times good facilities than those in the villages where the minerals come from and that is so because of bad policies,” he said.
Presentations were also made during the three days workshop by facilitators from Keneya and Ghana about the negative effect of mining in non-mining communities.
At the end of the workshop, participants welcomed the domestication of the African Mining Vision, which will form Sierra Leone’s New Mineral Policy, adding that the scheme was a regional framework that could turn Africa’s natural resource wealth into a blessing for women and men of the continent.
They noted that it would be crucial to ensure that the Sierra Leone Minerals Policy was rooted broadly within the population with strong emphasis on its implementation, and geared toward enhancing benefits for all citizens and mitigating potential adverse impacts on local communities in mining districts.
They also recommended that they differentiate reconnaissance licenses from production licenses to allow competitive bidding after discovery, contrary to suggestions that new licences should not be awarded on competitive basis.
Participants further recommended that the government should separate the licencing processes by not granting automatic upgrade from prospecting licences to production licences.
Participants noted that companies could apply for prospecting or reconnaissance licence and that after discoveries have been made, the company could then opt for payment for the cost of its investment and/or enter a bidding process to compete for the exploitation of the resource.
They called for a clear definition and public disclosure of beneficial ownership information and sanction for falsification of information, as well as a mandatory disclosure of primary contracts with appendices, permits, and marketing contract.
They added that mineral contracts signed between the government of Sierra Leone and mining companies should be disclosed to enable citizens monitor what the former signed on their behalf.
The participants further recommended that the new policy should provide clear rules and penalties for conflict of interest and an integrity pact against bribery and corruption to guide contracting process to ensure that public officials are not caught up in conflict of interest situations, and that there must be a clear provision in the mineral policy to detect conflict of interest and provide sanctions for nondisclosure or falsification or concealment of information.
In the area of revenue transparency and accountability, they demanded that there should be a clear definition of revenue sources, including roles and responsibilities of institutions aligned to revenue governance and that the mineral policy should clearly define the sources of revenue and institutions mandated to collect specific revenue on behalf of the State.
“The policy should develop a comprehensive guidance on the management of mineral account, highlighting processes of depositing, withdrawal and spending for the Government to be providing information on mineral accounts to the public on payments into the accounts, withdrawals and specific sectors and projects receiving the funds, as that will ensure revenue transparency, tracking of mineral expenditures aligned with broad-based development.”
For the avoidance of granting tax incentives, they recommended that the new policy should embrace a robust mechanism for tracking, generation and utilisation or management of mineral wealth through the elimination of unnecessary tax incentives.
“The policy must recommend the closure of all loopholes in the fiscal regime exploited by mining companies to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The policy should address how to tackle both national and international tax avoidance.”
They called for the development and implementation of transparent and accountable monitoring framework for revenue management that ensures a broad-based development, and that the Mineral Policy should call for the government and civil society, including communities, to design a joint monitoring framework to monitor all mining revenues going back to communities to ensure optimal utilisation of funds and promote alternative livelihoods and post-mining economy.
They further called for an inter-generational equity and that the policy should reinforce the need for stabilisation, sovereign wealth fund and an infrastructure fund as required by the African Mineral Vision, and in establishing those funds, government should carefully review the potential risks.
“Some of these risks can be mitigated by establishing clear objectives of the fund, detailed regulation of the spending and investment (this should be legally binding on successive governments), ensure independent audit and control mechanism.”
They also called for the strengthening of capacity building and training of the population, and that the new policy should articulate a clear road map for the training of the requisite manpower including geologists to lead the country out of the old fashion -“first come, first serve” negotiation system to the more progressive bidding system. Moreover, clear training skills in the mining sector and inter-related areas should be developed.”