Sierra Leone News: Coalition Calls for Clear Strategy on Extractive Industry
By Sallieu Kanu
The National Advocacy Coalition on Extractives (NACE) has launched two reports on Sierra Leone’s extractives sector, and called on the government to develop a clear strategic document on mining and extractives in the resource-rich West African nation.
NACE is a civil society organization and key member of the Multi-Stakeholder Group, the governing body of the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative in Sierra Leone, that is responsible for developing policies and implementing programmes and activities, and to promote transparency and accountability in the management of its minerals, oil and gas sectors.
One of the reports, titled: ‘Sierra Leone Minerals Sector; New Directions Towards a New Destination’, was authored by one of the country’s foremost development experts, Herbert McLeod, and funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, which promotes democratic values by sustaining catalytic and innovative initiatives that add value to the efforts of West Africa’s civil society.
The 34-page long report covers issues affecting mining communities such as community development, environmental degradation, and unfulfilled promises, among other issues. The report was launched alongside NACE’s latest newsletter which carries detailed investigative stories on the lives of communities living in mining communities.
Dr. Mustapha Olajiday Thomas, Head of Department of Geology, Fourah Bay College, who chaired the launch of the report, explained that the mineral resource sector used to be the traditional source of foreign exchange and historically has accounted for about 90% of total export and 60% of GDP.
“In 2013–2014 Sierra Leone became one of the fastest growing economies in the world which was occasioned by a world class production and marketing of Iron Ore in Port Loko and Tonkolili districts, but it is sad to say that the socio economic benefit that characterized that boom were rather short-lived,” he said.
Dr Thomas added: “This is the time that the government needs to recalibrate its policies and law in readiness for the next boom, which I believe is not far away. Already we have seen government’s step to review the country’s mining policies and to put them in line with the African Mining Vision.”
According to Cecilia Mattia, National Coordinator of NACE, the report is to support the government in its drive to ensure that the mining sector benefits Sierra Leoneans.
Joe Pemagbi, Country Officer and Head of Sierra Leone country office at OSIWA, noted that they engaged partners with different tools in two thematic areas, which were grant and research, because they wanted their partners to advocate from an informed point of view to add value to the existing situation.
He added that they would continue to support Civil Society Organizations, called for collaboration between government and CSOs and urged public officials to start reengaging non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups on the mining development cooperation.
“I want to use this opportunity to appeal to Honourable Mathew Nyuma and the Minister here to provide the space to reengage on the development cooperation framework. We are all in this business together. Yes, I know there are misunderstandings about the role of NGOs or CSOs, but I think if we all try to understand where we all came from, it will serve all of us better,” he said.
Honourable Foday Rado Yokie, Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, said that he appreciated the report so much because it resonated with his aspiration of cleaning up the extractives sector in Sierra Leone. He said the state of mining had dropped in the country over the years, contributing only 4% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
“We will not dictate but collaborate for the betterment of this country. Our mineral resources must benefit the people of Sierra Leone,” he said and assured of government’s support to ensuring that the document was popularized. He added that that he would also ensure that issues in the report were sent to the Attorney General’s office to be included in the draft review of the Mines and Minerals Development Act.
“We have to change the narratives. When I read the document, I said Yes! It is in line with my vision of cleansing the mineral sector. The relationship between mining companies and communities must be a win-win. I assure you that we will take this in good fate, and it will be taken to the Attorney General’s office to be added on the review of the Mines and Minerals Act,” he said.