By Amin Kef (Ranger)
In recent years, the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, under the astute leadership of its young but dynamic Minister, Timothy Musa Kabba, who without any iota of flattery or exaggeration, has revamped that Government entity once riddled with all forms of dubious games orchestrated by those in positions of trust who were expected to ensure that the People and the country benefit from what endowed it with naturally.
Since appointed by President Bio to head such a sensitive Ministry, the Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Timothy Musa Kabba has injected sound initiatives and instituted sound reforms that have progressively increased revenue generated from mineral exports which now stands at Le. 523.2 Billion, according to the latest report.
Making such an enviable achievement did not materialize out of sheer luck or via any supernatural route but rather through hard work, coordination and ensuring that the right things are done.
A quick rundown of some the strides the indefatigable and result-oriented Minister undertook in making positive outcomes will give a bird’s eye view of how the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the young man has been contributing to revenue mobilization and generation.
In 2020/2021, the Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources and the National Mineral Agency (NMA) were able to settle what was becoming a protracted impasse between the Government of Sierra Leone and SL Mining in Marampa, a company mining iron ore in Lunsar.
Through his interventions, negotiating skills and positive recommendations to Government, an out of court settlement was reached that was favourable to the two parties. The legal cases were withdrawn; a new company to be formed that will own 90% interest and Government will own 10% ‘non-dilutable’ interest, the new company to pay a fixed sum of USD20M in two installments by 31st December 2021. This was a remarkable feat considering the financial costs involved in dealing with a case that was in an international court.
Another major breakthrough which the erudite Minister accomplished relates to how to ensure that mining fees, royalties etc benefit the vast majority of residents in mining communities. This was very important in that prior to his coming to the Ministry, such fees or monies paid by investors only ended in the pockets of rogue politicians and those considered to be the ruling class in those communities.
The Minister has been very consistent in always stating that though mining operations offer employment to indigenes, however, mining companies must ensure that the communities are also provided with basic amenities and infrastructure to improve standards of living. As a result of that steadfastness we have witnessed the construction of schools, clinics, community centres, housing for employees, reconstruction of roads, offering of scholarships and implementation of other development projects.
Mining companies have contributed over Le 20 billion to implement development projects in their host communities from 2018-2019. Such project includes include a Multipurpose building and market centre in lower Banta Chiefdom-Moyamba District, three Schools in Gorama-Mende Chiefdom in Kenema district, also three(3) Schools in Kono district.
From 2018 to 2020 Mining Companies paid Le37.4 billion as Surface rents to landowners across the country.
According to data from Statistics Sierra Leone(SSL), the Mineral Exports for 2019 by Mining Companies were USD 430 million, accounting for about 62% of total exports. In 2020, Mineral export was circa USD 313 million and accounted for 48% of total exports from Sierra Leone. In 2020 mineral export dropped slightly due to the Covid19 pandemic.
The total amount paid to the Government of Sierra Leone, from Mining Companies, was USD56 million in 2018, USD61 million in 2019 and USD 44 million in 2020, the reduction in revenue generation in 2019 and 2020 was mainly due to the Covid19 Pandemic.
In 2021, the Minister of Mines and Mineral resources Timothy Kabba increased revenue generated to Le. 523.3 billion, the highest ever by the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources.
In the area of employment by Mining Companies; the Total number of Sierra Leoneans employed by Mining companies in January 2018 was 8,552, and the total number of Sierra Leoneans employed by Mining companies in March 2021 is 13,500.
With the emergence of Kingho Mining Company, Cheng Li Mining Company, Sierra Diamonds Limited, and Supreme Minerals Limited Mining Companies the number of employees has increased significantly in the short term.
In May 2019, the Ministry of Mines and Mineral resources with support from the Government of Sierra Leone introduced three New Policy documents; the Sierra Leone Mineral Policy, the Geo-data Management Policy, and the Artisanal Mining policy.
These Policies aim to attract private investments in exploration and Mining; emphasize the integration of the Mineral economy; establish a transparent fiscal regime that balances benefits with investments competitiveness; supports mineral beneficiation and marketing, and guide investors toward the sustainable exploration of mineral resources in Sierra Leone.
In an effort to spur the contribution of the mining sector to the economy from 0.8% to 10% by the year 2030, the Government , on the advice of the Minister and the National Minerals Agency embarked on a nation-wide geo-mapping survey to establish mineral deposits.
He has been underscoring the need for miners to add value on minerals extracted so as to grow auxiliary industries in order to create jobs and improve livelihoods.
Under the stewardship of the Minister, Parliament has on the 9th August, 2022 passed into law with some amendments the bill entitled, “The Mines and Minerals Development Act, 2022”.
The Bill seeks to repeal and replace the Mines and Mineral Act, 2009, to provide for the introduction of new and improved provisions for exploration, mines and Minerals development, sale, and export for the socio-economic benefits of the people of Sierra Leone, to provide for the facilitation of transparent and accountable management of the mineral sector by the international best practices, to provide for improved employment and employment practice; in the mineral sector; to provide improved welfare of communities affected by exploration, mining, and related activities to provide for more effective measures to reduce the harmful effects of exploration and mining activities on life, property, and the environment and to provide for other related matters.
The Minister, Timothy Kabba, piloted the passage of the Bill as Members of Parliament earlier extensively debated the bill and sent it to the Legislative Committee for further scrutiny and amendments.