NMA DG Demonstrates Determination to Transform the Mining Sector

Director General of the National Minerals Agency (NMA), Julius Daniel Mattai

By Amin Kef Sesay

On the 9th September 2020, the Director General of the National Minerals Agency (NMA), Julius Daniel Mattai, during a Press Conference held at the institution’s Board Room updated journalists about the mineral sector in Sierra Leone.

In a pragmatic and professional way, the Director General started by stating that Sierra Leone is endowed with mineral resources but lamented that the lack of proper management of the mineral sector has created the ugly situation of Sierra Leoneans not benefitting from the country’s mineral resources.

He disclosed that the National Minerals Agency is a semi-autonomous entity that was established seven years back with the mandate to promote the development of the mineral sector by effectively and efficiently managing the administration and regulation of mineral rights and minerals trading as well as to provide other supports.

“It is also our responsibility or our obligation to guide investments in the sector and ensure that the populace benefit from the country’s mineral resources,” Julius Daniel Mattai further revealed.

He noted that the mineral sector has been encumbered with so many challenges underscoring how it is extremely difficult to govern our mineral resources without proper laws. The Director General made it categorically clear that when it comes to regulating the mineral sector the onus does not only lie in the hands of the NMA but on all the citizenry pointing out that they are just an Agency that is working in line with the Ministry of Mineral Resources and other institutions.

“We at NMA are responsible to manage the sector and the Ministry of Mineral Resources has the mandate to formulate policy. In other words, we roll out the implementation of policies that are formulated by the Ministry,” he intimated newsmen adding that the institution has a Board of Directors having on it  the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and a representative from the Ministry of Finance being members alongside other members. He stated that the Board performs oversight functions.

Julius Daniel Mattai highlighted that there is the Minerals Advisory Board whose main function is to proffer advice to the Minister of Mineral Resources on certain issues.

He bemoaned that the 2009 Minerals Act has outlived its usefulness, is outdated and therefore need to be reviewed as there are certain inconsistencies. “A review is highly significant if we are to effectively govern the mineral sector in this country,” he recommended and added that the National Minerals Agency was established after the promulgation of the Act.

The NMA Director General told journalists that he supervises the Director of Mines but he has no authority to sign mining licences as their own responsibility is to implement and enforce the Minerals Act. He underscored that his leadership role is limited when it comes to the implementation of the Act.

He informed that there is a process in applying for mining licences underscoring that the acquisition of licence goes with obligations and price. The DG further revealed that besides the Minerals Act, traditional (uncodified) rules and regulations are also taken into consideration in certain cases to grant mining licences. “However to marry codified and uncodified laws is a big challenge we are grappling with,” he asserted also revealing how they have five regional offices.

The Director General succinctly stated that his burning desire, which he and his team are assiduously working to achieve, is to professionalize the National Minerals Agency in order for it to effectively provide the technical expertise needed to sanitize the mining sector.

“We assess the operations of mining companies in the country but we do not collect monies as it is the National Revenue Authority that has that responsibility. However, we do have funds generated through application fees and imposition of fines which are utilized for operational purposes but these are not frequently coming in meaning that the institution is financially constrained,” he stated.

The DG revealed that as a matter of fact they do not have sufficient vehicles informing that recently GTZ donated some bikes to them. He said the institution receives subvention from Government stating that for the 2019 fiscal year a total of 575 million Leones was disbursed to them out of a total amount of 1.3 Billion Leones that was budgetary allocated to them. Again, he pointed out that for 2020 the sum of 1.8 Billion Leones was allocated less than 7.8 Billion Leones that was allocated for the purpose of performance of the Hajj. He expressed gratitude to their partners for the assistances so far rendered to the institution.

“As a nation we have to take the regulation of the mining sector serious as it is very important for the socio-economic development of the country,” he maintained

The Director General stated that the country’s iron ore has not been governed very well, suggesting that one of the ways to get out of this situation is to have credible investors disclosing how they have been encouraging mining companies to frequently dialogue with them.

He lamented that what the country derives from its mineral resources on a yearly basis are pittances.

“The ongoing arbitration between SL Mining Company and Sierra Leone is going on well contrary to the fake news peddled by certain mischievous people,” he disclosed.

Mattai said in terms of safety and health of workers at mining sites they do from time to time organize trainings, engage mining companies in order to ensure that they implement safety measures in order to prevent the occurrences of accidents at mining sites. Besides, he revealed how the have a Grievance and Complaints entity that deals with controversial issues of such nature.

The DG  informed that they have developed a five year Strategic Plan which they will soon launch saying the first one was done by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) but this time round he decided that they must develop a comprehensive one which they have done and the Board has perused it. He also pointed out that they have developed a new Bill which if it successfully goes through all the legal processes will metamorphose into an Act that will replace the current Mines and Minerals Act.

With respect to the purchase of three vehicles, the Director of Admin and Finance at NMA said they did so by going through all the right channels. He underscored that as per legality the NMA Board gave approval for the procurement to be done and bids were advertised with the procurement done through competitive bidding.

On his part, the Director General of NMA said the creation of two new offices within the institution was approved by the Board contrary to the misinformation that is been churned out by certain sections of the media that he did so unilaterally.

He revealed that at the moment there are 14 large scale mining companies in the country but there are 4 that are really functionally operating in the country bemoaning that there is a lot of artisanal mining taking place but the miners still continue to wallow in abject poverty as much proceeds are not realized as there are various middlemen, most whom are foreigners.

With regards the issue of him owing a company that does environmental assessment for mining companies and being the Director General of NMA is a conflict of interest, he pointed out that such is not the case. He made it clear that the company in question is not a sole proprietorship but one that is registered as a limited company that has its own management structure that takes decision although he has hundred percent shares. He made references to Sections 43 and 44 of the 1991 Constitution to substantiate his argument.

“As a matter of fact the company got contracts from mining companies way before I become the Director General of NMA and so do not understand where this conflict of interest is coming from as purported by some miscreants,” he fired referencing Sections 43 and 44 of the 1991 Constitution to substantiate his argument.

He said he is proud of creating job opportunities for young people in the country as well as paying billions of Leones yearly in the form of taxes to Government.

He ended up by stating that there is the Minerals Advisory Board of which he is not a member but sometimes invited to certain meetings to offer his professional knowledge but has no permanent seat on the Board.

“It was at one instance that I left the meeting for another engagement that certain news outlets erroneously reported that I was dragged out of the meeting which is absurd because as you see my built I am someone who is hard to be dragged,” he euphemistically pointed out, provoking a fit of laughter from the audience.

He revealed how they are working on modalities to ensure that residents in mining communities will develop project proposals which they and the Ministry of Rural Development will peruse and if need be will be funded from certain funds that are paid by mining companies.

The NMA Director General stated that there are certain people who are averse to reforms in the mining sector but stressed how he and his colleagues are determined to roll out those reforms to ensure that the country benefits immensely from its resources. “We cannot be deterred as long as we are convinced that we are on the right trajectory,” he affirmed.

The Press Conference wrapped up with a question and answer session.



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