May 7, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi
President Ernest Bai Koroma has said mining companies operating in the country should ensure Sierra Leoneans have fair job opportunities and allow local companies to fully participate in economic generating activities, as enunciated in the Local Content Policy and Mines and Mineral Regulations of the country.
The president was speaking yesterday at Radisson Blu in Freetown while re-launching the Tonkolili Iron Ore project which has been fully taken over by China’s Shandong Steel Group, one of the biggest steel companies in the world. He said he was pleased that the Tonkolili mines was again resuming full operations as that would boost the country’s economy, especially when the mining sector has been playing a significant role in the development and growth of Sierra Leone.
“Since 2007, my government has taken steps for numerous reforms in the mineral sector; for the first time in the history of the country, we had five leading mining companies fully operational, but because of the Ebola disease and the drop in the price of the ore, there was a drop in their operations. That notwithstanding, we are pleased that Shandong Steel Group has taken 100% control in the project,” said President Koroma.
He added: “I want Shandong to resume operations immediately and they are assured of our support. We have the Local Content Policy in place and sections of our mining laws made it clear that they should give work to Sierra Leoneans. I want Shandong to know this so that our youths will have employment opportunities. I want to call on the ministries of Mines, Labour, Finance, Youth Affairs, among others, to collaborate effectively to ensure the implementation of the Local Content Policy.”
He further noted that the Chinese company should respect traditional and cultural values of communities in which they operate, and urged locals to in turn be hospitable to the company and its workers.
Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray, said his ministry had been working closely with other stakeholders to ensure the Tonkolili mines resumes operations.
He said Shandong Steel Company had been working with African Minerals Limited and in 2012 contributed the sum of US$1.5 billion to maximise operations at the Tonkolili mines. He noted with regret that in 2014 a drop in the global price of ore created a lot of difficulties.
Director General of the National Minerals Agency, Sahr Wonday, also commended the government of Sierra Leone and Shandong for their collaboration in resuming operations at the mines, which closed last year as parent company African Minerals ran into financial difficulties due to a drop in global ore prices and the Ebola outbreak.
“We know that Shandong has the capacity to face with the challenges, we expect that today’s event marks the beginning of good relationship. As regulators, I want to assure this company of our support as they keep to the laws of the country,” he concluded.