December 22, 2016 By Mohamed Massaquoi
The Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) in collaboration with Natural Resource Governance and Economic Justice Network (NaRGEJ), a civil society outfit working on mining issues, yesterday organised a one-day national forum for civil society organisations working on natural resource governance and affected mining communities at the One World Community Centre in Bo .
The aim of the dialogue forum was to look into a research conducted some months ago in six major mining communities in Port Loko; Tonkolili, Kono, Kenema, Bo, and Bonthe and Moyamba districts.
While presenting findings from Port Loko district, NMJD Director of Mining and Extractive Programme, Pastor John Momoh, said in order for the country to transform its natural resources into lasting benefits, mining communities should ask relevant questions about activities in their locality and that they should have vast knowledge for effective mobilisation, thus demanding their rights from mining companies.
In Port Loko, he said, local authorities were very much concerned about the activities of mining companies in their communities, adding that they were not in any way benefiting from mining companies in the district.
He said it was revealed that a small number of indigenes were employed by Shandon mining vompany, adding that since Africa Mineral Limited constructed a market for the community they have not done much to improve the living standards of people in that part of the country.
“No viable fishing activity as the ship that comes to take mineral waste cuts our fishing nets. Moreover, poor road network, dust pollution, cracks of houses by the vibration of train, poor drinking water facility, inadequate health facility for residents are some of the problems facing the Port Loko people,” he said, adding that relocation of affected mining residents and crop compensation issues remain a major challenge in the area.
Also, Mohamed G. Kalokoh from Kenema said the Environmental and Social Officer at the Kenema District Council, Sahr Kanneh, had informed researchers that there were two types of mining activities taking place within the district, company mining and individual illicit mining.
He added that illicit mining was very extensive and that council has found it difficult to curb because many local authorities have connection with the illicit miners.
He said the council was not allowed to monitor mining companies despite the fact that they are the highest political authority in the district.
“Companies are not working with the district councils but rather the Environment Protection Agency and the ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources. We do not know the total number of people employed by these companies as we do not have access to their employment records,” Kanneh is reported to have told the civil society members.
At the end of the forum, the team agreed to develop a work plan, which would be used as advocacy tools for members of civil society in their respective communities.