Sierramin Bauxite SL Ltd to Take Vimetco to Court

Sierramin Bauxite Mining Company.jpg

By Amin Kef 

In 2014 Sierramin Bauxite Mining Company commenced operations as a wholly Sierra Leone based entity with the main objective of developing the Bauxite deposits at Port Loko, Northern Sierra Leone after it registered and acquired certification via the National Minerals Agency (NMA) ,with approval of the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources. Currently, the company is the holder of two exploration and one mining licences and is presently operating in two chiefdoms within Port Loko District namely Maforki and Marampa.

It could be recalled that although the company started operations in 2014 such were interrupted due the Ebola outbreak but resumed after the signing of the Mining Lease Agreement and the Government Agreement in 2016 and 2017 respectively. In the wake of the signing of the two agreements, Sierramin Company started active mobilization of its equipment and personnel. It was on the verge of starting exportation when, unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country.

After going through certain setbacks as a result of the aforementioned unforeseen circumstances, the company negotiated and closed an investment deal with the China/Canada-based Devon Impex Limited worth $430 M geared towards the accelerated development of the Port Loko deposits.

Through this new arrangement, $80M was allocated to the Bauxite mining and $350M in building an Alumina Plant in Port Loko district. It is also worthy of note that Sierramin Bauxite SL Ltd is one of the large-scale mining companies that has a Sierra Leonean as Chief Executive Officer.

It is also good to know that despite the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the company’s operations; however, the mining company maintained steady pre-production activities and has in its employ about 500 employees.

Vimetco, on the other hand, is a Netherlands based Aluminum Company that acquired a bauxite mine in the country in 2010. The bauxite mine produces alumina tri-hydrate used in the refractory as well as ceramics industries and for water purification. It is the expectation that with the construction of a new plant by the company, equipped with modern technology such will be the first in the country but that is yet to be actualized. Currently, Vimetco is producing around 1.2 million tonnes per annum for export.

From an in-depth investigation, over a period of time ,mounted by this Press , what came out glaringly was that there was a symbiotic relationship between the two bauxite mining companies as evident in a confidential agreement signed by the two bordering on areas where both should have understanding, a sort of Memorandum of Understanding.

However, that good working relationship seemed to have gone bad as it appeared that Vimetco had been clandestinely lobbying the main stakeholders or actors that have control over the country’s mineral resources to give it the access to gain a complete monopoly of the bauxite deposits in Port Loko district.

It is on record that Management of the Vimetco made the initial move in Russia where it attempted to lobby Sierra Leone Government Officials to allow it gain monopoly in mining bauxite in the country but they were told that achieving such could be seemingly impossible.

As if that was not enough to get the Management of Vimetco off that venture or path, they ,however, Management still insisted or continued doing so on various occasions to by  putting forward such a treacherous and selfish desire or antic, which is nothing short of greedily taking over the concessional areas of Sierramin Company.

Desperate as it had been and is still, there are now signs hovering that the Management of Vimetco has somehow succeeded in allegedly getting the support of certain officials within the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources and the National Mineral Agency (NMA) to finally get what they have been yearning for over the years-to gain monopoly over the Port Loko bauxite deposits by taking away the concessional areas from Sierramin Mining Company through NMA and the Mines Ministry backing or support.

One way that stance could be justified is the reluctance on the part of officials of the Mines Ministry and NMA to welcome and meet with the new Management of Sierramin without giving any plausible reason for acting in such an unfriendly manner.

During the course of investigation it further came out that Vimetco has been reneging in effectively rolling out its Corporate Social Responsibility within its area of operations to the chagrin of residents.  Former Director of Mines, Jonathan Sharkah, was the one championing the cause for the company to be honoring its Corporate Social Responsibility.

Most whom interacted with this medium have expressed profound indignation over the seeming granting of the concessional areas previously granted to Sierramin Mining Company to Vimetco. “How can we encourage an irresponsible company that cares less for the people to continue to gain a foothold in our district?” majority of the residents in Port Loko asked vehemently.

The way things are going it seems as if Management of Sierramin is not taking this issue lightly especially when it is factual that the company has recently paid all its required rents, including its EIA licence fee, as stipulated by law, to the requisite parties.

As the situation now stands, Management of Sierramin, through their Lawyers, is on the verge of filing a lawsuit against Vimetco at any time from now if the National Minerals Agency (NMA) and the Mines Ministry do not rescind their alleged position by doing the right thing or settle the impasse amicably.

According to a specialist in mining, filing a lawsuit by one mining company against another does not augur well for the image of the country and could be very inimical to wooing potential investors out of fear of being treated unfairly. He concluded that this could be a test case.

When this medium contacted the Director General of the National Minerals Agency (NMA), Julius Daniel Mattai, to sound his view on the issue he preferred maintaining silence.


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