By Alusine Sesay
Leone Afric Metals Mining Company on February 23 at the Kalangba Court Barry,Ngowahun Chiefdom in the Bombali District, handed over cheques worth two billion old Leones to land owning families, chiefdom, constituency and district council authorities.
The distribution of cheques of one billion old Leones to land owning families, two hundred million old Leones to the Chiefdom Development Council, three hundred million old Leones to the Paramount Chief, two hundred million old Leones to the Constituency Development Fund, and three hundred million old Leones to the District Council, was done in the full view of the Anti-Corruption Commission represented by the North-East Manager, Mariama Navo.
Speaking at the occasion, Fassally Tarawally, representative of Leone Afric Metals, said the journey to that day was rough, but that after thorough evaluation, government decided to award them the license to mine in the chiefdom based on their track record and investment portfolio, which made them an outstanding and a credible company.
He promised that having been awarded the license with mining operations soon to kick off, he would make sure that he cater for the women, youth and the aged in the chiefdom, thus calling on the women to catalogue their priority needs that the company will act on as and when convenient.
He said as per law, the community will sit together with the company and develop the Community Development Agreement (CDA) that will encompasses priority areas of development intervention by the company.
Fassally Tawarally continues that the company will be paying One Hundred Thousand United States Dollars every year, and that it Leone equivalence will be paid to the Chiefdom as surface rent based on the exchange rate.
He told the gathering that based on the license they have, they will mine in the chiefdom for twenty-five years, thus calling on crop owners to take inventory of all commercial plantations within the mining concession area that will be affected by the mining operations.
Dilating on the establishment of the factory that would be processing the mineral, he noted that, that development will not be automatic as it will take time to transport the machinery from China to Sierra Leone, but assured that the company will definitely live up to it expectations as time goes by.
Member of Parliament representing Constituency 32, Hon.Mark Mamoud Kalakoh appealed that the amount of surface surface rent should be progressive based on emerging issues like inflation, but Fassally was quick to respond that the company will go strictly by the law which dictates the payment of surface rent.
Hon.Kalokoh also appealed that to ensure harmony in the chiefdom and fair employment of indigenes, the company should award the positions of Human Resource Officer and Community Liaison Officer to indigenes of the chiefdom.
Fasally was also quick to respond that the company has been in existence for over ten years and that they already have a human resource officer, adding that the company already has a Community Liaison Officer, Lawyer Karrow Kamara,who is an indigene of the chiefdom.
Hon.Kalokoh further called on the company to take into consideration the safety of workers during the mining operations and land reclamation after the mining operations.
Representing the security sector, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Bamboli District, called on the community residents to be law abiding and channel all their grievances through the chiefdom authorities for redress, instead of them taking the law into their hands during the mining operation.
Paramount Chief Kandeh Kpanga of Ngowahun Chiefdom, said the road leading to the payment of surface rent by Leone Afric Metals was not easy.
“There were a lot of suspicions that I have collected money from mining companies. I want to welcome Leone Afric Metals and wish them all the best in their operations. I will give them all the support they need to make their operation successful,” he promised.
He told the gathering that the surface rent is meant for people residing within the mining concession area and called on land owing families to make good use of the money that would be given to them to educate their children.
He called on residents to be law abiding and allow the company to go about it operations successfully, adding that the surface paid will first be deposited into the bank and thereafter a survey conducted to ascertain the actual land owning families.
Residence Minister North-East, Abu Abu Koroma,called on the indigenes to put politics aside and work with the company, and also called on the youth to do the right thing when employed to work in the company.
He called on the land owning families to take responsibility and ensure that the company’s operation is successful, noting that not everybody will be employed at the same time and called on the will-be employed youth not to embark on stealing the company’s property.