By Brima Sannoh
His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio on Monday 3 February 2020 in Cape Town ,South Africa delivered the keynote address to this year’s Mining Indaba, the world’s largest mining investment event taking place in Cape Town, South Africa, emphasising that Sierra Leone now needs trustworthy mining partners.
He said while the country was now open to specific partnerships that would support the integration of mining-related training and harness mining-specific technology to create innovation hubs that would guarantee the country’s strategic education outcomes, he looked forward to working with the right partners.
“So, therefore, what we want as a nation are trustworthy, credible, and patient investors – investors who value fair and ethical business principles and practices; investors who are interested in a sustainable, long-term relationship with our country.
“You see, business is not a zero-sum game and it should not be. Business is transactional in essence. ‘Renegotiation’ and ‘compromise’ are not dirty words in business. All we seek, as a country, is a cordial engagement in which all parties get to a meeting of minds on how best to re-shape and develop that investor-host country relationship so that we both have a win-win outcome,” he said.
President Bio, who has taken a strong and deliberate position on fighting corruption, informed the gathering of investors that his Government had cracked down hard on corruption since his election in 2018, adding that the country’s mining-sector policies were well-forethought and informed by the principles of transparency and accountability at all levels.
“If a deal does not look right and smell right, we would rather leave it outside the homestead. As a Government, we want patient and credible investor partners. We are not interested in players who speculate against what they argue are unproven reserves or unclear geological and technical data in order to wring out unfair deals.
“We have completed a nationwide airborne geophysical survey. We now have very high-resolution datasets from that survey. The preliminary indications are that we have extensive proven reserves of metals and ores,” he said, noting that they believed that patient and credible investors would study the datasets from the recently completed nationwide airborne geophysical survey and then engage the country’s mining sector professionals and the Government in frank and open dialogue on how they could do business over the long term.
Later in the day the Director-General of National Minerals Agency, NMA, Julius Daniel Mattai, told a country-specific case study event, which featured presentations and discussions of the first-ever such sophisticated nationwide airborne geophysical survey since 1930, that resource depletion was a reality in a country with over 60% unemployment rate and massive poverty and illiteracy.
“Therefore, we must learn from the mistakes of the past. Acquiring geophysical information is good, especially with the type of datasets and various derivatives fantastically showing these mineral resources. But data must be properly managed to surmount the massive challenges and make sure that we have the platform that allows investors to access them online and define areas they are interested in and express interest,” he said.
Mr Mattai also announced that by end of March, they would have had the online platform where potential investors could access and buy the datasets, clearly stating the procedures and processes to access and use the information.
“With the Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation, we will make sure that intellectual property rights and privacy are managed by using the requisite algorithm. We have a President that is determined to make Sierra Leone the new destination for investment and we at NMA will make it work from a win-win perspective,” he assured.
From Cape Town, Bio is expected to head for Addis Ababa to attend the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State running from 9th – 10th February.
The summit is being held on the theme: “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development”.
President Bio is scheduled to present a report as Chairperson of the Committee of Ten Heads of State and Government on the Reform of the United Nations Security Council at the AU Summit, which will also feature reports on the institutional reform of the African Union, the African Continental Free Trade Area and Peace and Security.