President Bio’s visit to Octea brings   hope to residents 

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January 22, 2019

By Mohamed Massaquoi

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Octea washing plant
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One of the abandoned pits of the mines

President Julius Maada Bio last Saturday paid an unannounced visit to the site of one of the biggest mining companies in Sierra Leone, Octea Mining Company, as part of his commitment in transforming the mining sector in the country.

The operation of Octea Mining Company in the eastern district town of Kono has been strongly criticised by residents, who believed that the company has not been helpful to them, especially when it embarked on an opencast mining activity in the district, thus destroying the environment.

But the visit of the president has been highly acclaimed by residents of Kono who believed that the action would help change their appalling situation.

“We are happy that the president visited Octea mines. Our people have been subjected to abject poverty. A large acreage of land has been taken from land owners by previously Koidu Holdings now Octea Mining. People have been transferred to resettlement camps with little amenities, the environment is being depleted on a daily basis, so I am sure with the visit of the president things would be better for us,” Sahr Amadu a resident of Kono said.

The unannounced visit by the president has been widely debated among the people of Kono, as most of those interviewed believed that the president should re-visit the mining agreement of the company.

President Bio could not grant an interview on his visit to the company’s site, but speculations are that he was not happy with the level of environmental destructions that has been caused by the activities of the company.

Minister of Mineral Resources, Dr. Morie Komba Manyeh, said the president visited Octea because he wanted to get a feel of the mines.

“The president wanted to see how one of the biggest mines in Kono district operates and to see how Kimberly mines are being done. But he was unable to go down the mines to see for himself,” the minister said.

Only recently, the National Mineral Agency (NMA) and the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources revoked exploration licenses from some mining companies.

This action was part of ongoing effort to transform the Mineral Sector. The agency also clamped down on illegal miners and mineral right holders who have not been meeting their financial and other obligations to government.

“We realised during our monitoring that there were several breaches ranging from financial and work program obligations and others we couldn’t locate their offices,” said Ibrahim Satti Kamara, Director of Community Relations, Communications and Public Relations.

Also, the Kono district descendants in the diaspora on the 23rd April 2016 called for a global demonstration to protest against Tiffany & Co.’s financial partnership with the Octea Group – the sole owner of Koidu Holdings Ltd, for its alleged gross injustice in 2016 against the people of Kono.