WHAT HAPPENED: Leone Rock Metal Group through its subsidiary vehicle, Kingho Mining Company, on Thursday, 30th March, 2023, laid the cornerstone for the construction of a-12- million tons per annum beneficiation plant for its phase 2, stage 2 project as part of the company’s strategic vertical integration drive.
The ceremony was held at the mine site at Ferengbeya, Tonkolili District, Northern Region in the presence of government authorities, community stakeholders, Management & staff of Leone Rock Metal Group & other dignitaries.
The program attracted the President of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, The Chinese Ambassador,Wang Qing, Leone Rock Metal Group/ Kingho Energy Group President, Colin Ding, LRMG CEO, Gilbert Zhao, Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Timothy Kabba, the newly appointed CTO, Salim Sillah, Community Stakeholders among others.
WHAT PRESIDENT BIO SAYS?: President Julius Maada Bio said the cornerstone laying ceremony to start the construction of a-12-million metric tons iron ore processing plant, worth $230 million by Leone Rock Metal Group, is a big investment in the country & it is in line with the Government’s drive for value addition in the minerals industry.
“It is a real pleasure to be here today to jointly celebrate the clear outcomes of the many policies and governance reforms we clearly laid out in our 2018 manifesto for the transformation of the mining sector,” the President remarked.
“For over ten years of mining on the Tonkolili Iron Ore Mine, there is no tangible community development footprint from community development agreements negotiated before 2018,“ the President pointed.
“My Government believes that communities can achieve better development outcomes when more resources are directly provided to take care of their stated development needs. There is a saying in popular folklore that ‘diamonds are not forever.’ Mining is not forever, but mining communities deserve to be better off even when mining operations close down or are scaled down.
He emphasised that his government was grateful that investors from the People’s Republic of China could keep faith in the country’s economy, adding that at a broader level, that was a deep manifestation of the close solidarity between the two countries based on mutual trust and respect, a shared vision, and a shared interest in their common prosperity.
“The community must, therefore, do everything to support the peaceful operations of Leone Rock Metal Group and to protect the company’s assets,” he stated.
The President disclosed that his government would not want to see the mines close anymore, adding that Leone Rock Metal Group through its Subsidiary, Kingho Mining Company, had assured him that the ore optimisation plant to be constructed would add value to the iron ore before export.
“I am, therefore, most pleased to be laying the cornerstone for the company’s phase II Stage II processing plant. I thank you for your kind attention,” he concluded.
DIPLOMACY: Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Wang Qing, said the mega iron ore processing plant in Sierra Leone, when completed, would be the biggest in West Africa, adding that the success of Leone Rock Metal Group was a demonstration of fruitful, practical, win-win relations.
“Since 2010 Leone Rock Metal Group has stood firmly with the Government of Sierra Leone in a bid to transform the mining sector. Irrespective of the many difficulties they had experienced, along with the huge global risks and challenges, the company was resilient enough to invest in the country.
“Our presence here today is a result of that trust and political will. Now, here we are, and we are trying to transform their losses into gains by expanding their investment through the construction of a 12 million metric tons iron ore processing plant that will add value to the iron ore to meet global standards.
INVESTOR CONFIDENCE: President of Leone Rock Metal Group, Colin Ding, said the 12 million metric tons per annum saprolite processing and beneficiation plant is a demonstration of the Company’s aspiration and effort to support the continuous development of the mining industry in Sierra Leone and the creation of a stronger financial contribution to the economy, thereby providing more jobs & more revenue for the government through different tax regimes.
“Our current employment is over 3,600 vibrant and passionate employees, of whom 96 percent are Sierra Leoneans engaged in different roles in the company’ he mentioned.
He also stated that when the company completed the phase 2 stage 1 concentrate plant last year with an investment of over 8 million dollars, the Company hope for a sustainable Tonkolili iron ore mine.
“Now, I envisage that with further expansion, through the construction of our Phase II stage II saprolite processing plant, the company will completely transform Tonkolili Iron Ore Mine into the largest sustainable iron ore-producing company in West Africa”, he stated. This Phase II of the project targets an optimized grade of the ore of at least 62%Fe. In the past only Direct Shipping Ore(DSO) of an average grade of 57% Fe has been exported from this mine. This is why the company has deemed it prudent to upgrade to 62%Fe in order to meet acceptable global market standards & specification.
In his submission, the Minister of Mines of Mineral Resources, Timothy Kabba showered praises on LRMG for investing a huge amount in the country & contributing immensely to human capital development, especially in the area of providing job opportunities for & training of Sierra Leoneans. He outlined that the upgrade will give added value to the product, create more jobs & inject more revenue to the economy of Sierra Leone.
The Director General of National Minerals Agency (NMA), Julius Mattai, who made a statement earlier on in the programme, gave a vivid account of the history & geology of the Tonkolili Iron Ore Mine. He commended Leone Rock Metal Group through it operational vehicle, Kingho Mining Company for expanding its operations & venturing into optimization after two previous operators had failed. He clearly enumerated on the benefits of Beneficiation & commended Kingho Mining Company for upgrading the grade of the ore to a minimum of 62%Fe.
The event was climaxed with the symbolic laying of the cornerstone for the construction of the 12MT Plant by HE, the President & accompanied by the President of Kingho Energy Group & other dignitaries to a thunderous applause by those present.