By Mohamed Massaquoi
Director General of the National Minerals Agency (NMA) has disclosed that there is a significant improvement in the diamond industry with the scaling up of kimberlite mining operations by OCTEA, formerly Koidu Holdings, currently operating in the eastern part of the country.
Sahr Wonday said the commissioning of a new diamond treatment plant in 2012 by OCTEA has seen a rapid increase in production figures. This, together with the operations of artisanal miners, has ensured constant stream of revenue from diamonds, he said, adding that the total diamond export for last year was 609,758 carats, valued at US$185,692,633; reflecting a 14% increase on 2012 figures.
The NMA director general made the disclosure during a one-day seminar organized at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown for journalists and students from various tertiary institutions and universities on the mining industry.
He said Sierra Leone is richly endowed with mineral resources such as iron ore, platinum, gold, diamond, bauxite, rutile, ilmenite, zircon, chromite, and rare earth elements such as columbite – tantalite (coltan). He said the presence of these deposits represents major opportunities for Sierra Leoneans to derive optimal benefits from extracting, processing and exporting of these natural resources.
The current level of investment in the sector amounts to billions of dollars, with existing mining companies expanding their operations, and additional companies set to commence operations, he noted.
“The two large scale iron ore mining companies – London Mining Company (LMC) mining the Marampa deposit and African Minerals Limited mining the Tonkolili deposit – are currently expanding their operations, with African Minerals targeting a consistent export rate of 20 million tons a year of high grade hematite concentrate, and London Mining targeting a staged expansion to over 16Mt/y,” he disclosed. “This will not only mean increased revenue for government, but also more employment and economic opportunities for Sierra Leoneans.”
The mining expert further noted that rutile production by Sierra Rutile Limited (SRL) for this year is expected to exceed 100,000mt as a new dry mining project was commissioned in Lanti at the start of 2013.
He pointed out that financial benefits from mining are derived mainly from royalties, PAYE income tax, corporate taxes, import duties, annual license fees and payments to local communities.
“With new investments in the mining sector, Sierra Leone exported around US$1.4 billion worth of minerals in 2013 and revenue from the minerals sector exceeded 100 million dollars,” he disclosed. “After expanding by 6% in 2011, real GDP growth in Sierra Leone did in fact increase to 15% in 2012 following the commencement of iron ore production. Non-iron ore GDP growth in 2012 was 6.3%. Current projected GDP growth for Sierra Leone is 14.2% (7.9% for non-iron ore growth) for 2014 and 12.1% (7.0%) in 2015.”