By Amin Kef (Ranger)
The Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Timothy Kabba, was assured by Members of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Mines and Mineral Resources that they will give their unflinching support to the Ministry as long as they are of the conviction that the right things are done within the mining sector which are in the best interest of the country.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Emerson Lamina, stated during an inquiry held by the Parliamentary Committee on Mines and Mineral Resources after the signing of a Lease Agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and Arise Integrated Industrial Platforms Ltd, that the said agreement could be geared towards developing, expanding and managing the rail and port infrastructure in the Tonkolili District, Northern Sierra Leone.
He argued that the agreement will contribute immensely to the economy, especially to the education sector commitments of the President, which receives 22% of the country’s budget.
In his justification for signing the agreement, the Mines Minister, Timothy Kabba, pointed out that the broader vision of the Government is not to hold back any individual in the mining sector but to enable all other miners to have positive competitive opportunity in the sector maintaining that, “We have to think big and make difficult decisions.”
The Minister recalled the opportunity Sierra Leone missed in the mining sector in 1972 when the country inherited and nationalized the National Diamond Mining Corporation (NDMC) underscoring how similar decisions were to be made but was not done due to poor understanding of the financial, technical and labor implications.
Dilating on the challenges, the Minister said that, “In 2021, there could have been no better opportunity for us. The Mines and Mineral Act this House graciously enacted was influenced by many interest. Whether it was Government, Ministries, Agencies or Departments or even our development partners, they had immense interest in the Mines and Minerals Act.”
Timothy Kabba lamented how he always feels discouraged whenever people say Sierra Leone cannot show anything for all of the minerals it has when the royalty from bulk minerals is 3%.
“But these contents of our actions are actually dictated by this very many interests and sometimes our development partners, so we do not have the liberty and latitude to have big shares in our mineral resources,” he said.
The Minister argued that giving the rail and port to an independent operator who is not a mining company will promote transparency and also increase export volume.
He added that the rail and port belong to the people of Sierra Leone, adding that there is a need to maximize the benefits of the rail and port by providing access to the many existing mines and potential mines in the corridor to open the infrastructure to passenger carriage and also other non-mining commodities.
Speaking on the importance and the access which the Government may have as an impact, he said that Cabinet has just signed a mining SPV that will be collecting critical assets that are not owned by any mining company but by the Government of Sierra Leone.
‘’All these are happening because the country depends on handouts and cannot make critical decisions and stand by them,” the Minister concluded.