Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) through the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources has on Wednesday 23rd September 2020 handed over the Tonkolili Iron Ore Project to Chinese owned Kingho Mining Company Limited.
The event which took place at the Bumbuna Town Court Barry, in Dasogoia Chiefdom, Tonkolili District, saw dignitaries from all the various arms of government received warm welcome from locals of the various mining communities.
Meanwhile, during the handing over ceremony, the Honourable Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Timothy Kabba reaffirmed government’s commitment in ensuring that the people of Sierra Leone benefit from the country’s lucrative mining sector. The minister confirmed that Shandong Steel which previously operated the mines has disengaged from mining in Sierra Leone. Thus, he said, as a government which prides itself on the platform of empowering Sierra Leoneans they became very concerned about how soon the mines in Tonkolili would be operational again.
Minister Kabba added that it was difficult for Shandong to relinquish the mining site due to the massive investments they had. However, he said, thankfully with the support from the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone, government was able to get Shandong Steel relinquished the site, and as per law, the railway and the port to export iron ore now belong to the GoSL.
In assuring the locals about the creation of jobs, Minister Kabba said that government will ensure that local content is guaranteed. “We must make efforts to empower ourselves,” Minister Kabba said, urging Kingho Mining Company Limited to think about Technical Vocational trainings for Sierra Leoneans in the mining areas as well as to get them onboard in contributing to much needed activities of the mines.
Minister Kabba assured of government’s fullest commitment towards Kingho achieving its objectives, and called on all across every divide to collaborate in ensuring that the Tonkolili Mining Project sets a very good precedent for future mining projects across the country.
On his side, Mr Gilbert Zhao CEO of Kingho Investment Company Limited, said the takeover ceremony is a new dawn for the people of Sierra Leone. He added that as a company Kingho “has been working with the Government of Sierra Leone and Government of China over the last several months trying to have a smooth transition leading to a peaceful and orderly takeover of the mine and its associated assets.”
In addition, the CEO of Kingho Investment Company Limited assured that “in the next few days, we will start full scale maintenance work on the mining, processing facilities and accommodation quarters which will provide several jobs for skilled and unskilled Sierra Leoneans. We will definitely seek for continuous improvement in all aspects of the mine and operations.”
“In line with the Government’s local Content Policy and other key government regulations, we have recruited and in the process of recruiting qualified Sierra Leoneans that will hopefully add value to the organization and bring this project to fruition. We will transform the labor market by empowering citizens at local and national level. We believe that the human resources are our greatest assets,” Mr Zhao confirmed.
The Kingho head concluded by thanking the Government of Sierra Leone through its ministries, departments and agencies for the confidence reposed on Kingho Mining Company Limited. He said “we will also want to thank the Community elders, all stakeholders and citizens of this republic for their support in ensuring that the new Tonkolili Iron Ore Project gets the required attention & prime mover it deserves.”
From the side of the executive arm of government, whilst dilating on the commitment of President Julius Maada Bio in empowering young people across the country, the Honourable Minister of Youths Affairs, Mohamed Orman Bangura said that government primes transparency as the hallmark of the New Direction. He spoke about Kingho’s previous commitments to corporate social responsibility. He spoke about what the people of Tonkolili would gain should they collaborate with Kingho in achieving its mining objectives.
Meanwhile, from the parliamentary angle, Leader of Government Business in the Sierra Leone House of Parliament, Honorable Sahr Matthew Nyuma who was also present said: “We are here to serve as living testament to the people.” He reaffirmed that parliament will ensure that honouring locals will be the central of Kingho’s investments and employments. He called on youths to engage in dialogue instead of violence and called on them to be involved in sensitive and positive engagements.
In addition, the Parliamentary Committee Chairman on Mines and Mineral Resources Honourable Saa Emerson Lamina who was also present at the handing over ceremony said “government will not create all jobs, but will create credible investment that will create jobs for the people of Sierra Leone.” He said, as MPs, they were present to give assurances to the people, the government and the investors. He called for peace, unity and solidarity of purpose from stakeholders and the people of Tonkolili District. He assured that as a parliamentary committee, they will work in ensuring that Kingho honours its obligation and achieve its mandates.
Honourable Aaron Aruna Koroma, Chairman of Tonkolili Parliamentary Caucus, thanked the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament Honourable Sidie Mohamed Tunis who is the local consultant of Kingho Mining Company Limited. He thanked the President for the love he has shown to the people of Tonkolili District and assured that they will fully support the agendas of Kingho Mining. He said “Kingho are credible and reputable and we will support them.”
Honourable Abdul Hassan Sesay, another MP from Tonkolili District and Chairman Parliamentary Committee on Labour, said “a rebirth of Kingho is a rebirth of hope.” He thanked the Minister of Mines for his initiative in ensuring that peace and tranquility coexist in the mining communities.
Furthermore, from the MPs of the mining communities, Honourable Musa Jalloh of Sambaia Chiefdom emphasized the need to prioritize locals in the recruitment process. On her brief remarks, Honourable Rose Maria Bangura of Simiria, Kafe and Dasogoia chiefdoms expressed optimism that the relationship between Kingho and the people will achieve its required goals. She said that they would want the headquarters of Kingho Mining Company to be based in Magburaka, the District headquarters of Tonkolili.
Whilst welcoming the dignitaries to Bumbuna Town, the Paramount Chief of Dasogoia Chiefdom, PC Alimamy Y. Koroma said the handing over ceremony is a dream come true. He urged that Labour Laws are modified to give his people decent jobs. He thanked the government for giving local authorities the rights to negotiate their welfare with the mining companies.
Meanwhile, the programme was chaired by the Honourable Minister of Labour and Social Security, Lawyer Alpha Timbo who said “a good government must always try to cater for the betterment of the people. He said the programme was to not only protect the interest of the state, but also the people and to create atmosphere for credible future investments.
Other statements were made by the Resident Minister North, Abu Abu Abdulai Koroma and the Tonkolili District Chairlady Madam Yabom Sesay.
The programme climaxed with an official handing over ceremony which took place at the mining site.
Kingho Investment sets to employ over 2000 Sierra Leoneans to Revamp Iron Ore Mining in Tonkolili District
At the peak of a global pandemic which has ravaged economies of all countries across the world, Sierra Leone is having a clear boost in its mining sector as a group of expatriate from the Chinese owned Kingho Investment Company Limited jets into the country on Friday 17th July 2020, with the motive to revamp iron ore mining in the country’s northern district of Tonkolili.
Led by the General Manager of Kingho Investment Company Limited, Mr Gilbert Zhao, who together with others flew in onboard a private chartered Chinese flight, the team leader said they are in the country to boost the mining sector and also government’s revenue and tax collection. Therefore, he confirmed that Kingho Investment Company Limited is working on exporting its first (1st) shipment of iron ore from Sierra Leone latest by the 4th quarter (October-November-December) of 2020.
Speaking on arrival at the Freetown International Airport in Lungi, Mr Gilbert Zhao started by thanking His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio, the Government and People of Sierra Leone for the confidence bestowed on them. He assured that going forward his investment company is keen on utilizing the local potentials of Sierra Leoneans thus creating a workforce of between two thousand (2000) to five thousand (5000) employments. He added that his company will do everything possible to comply with all laws relating to local content policy in Sierra Leone. Hence he said, some of the expatriates are sub-contractors who will utilize local Sierra Leone engineers and workers who would be privileged for training opportunities in Beijing, China.
Mr Zhao further confirmed that the confidence they have in the Government of Sierra Leone is what gives Kingho Investment Company Limited the morale to invest at the restart period millions of United States Dollars into iron ore production in country.
In addition, Mr Zhao dilated that the job opportunity will be created for every Sierra Leonean irrespective of gender, ethnicity, social origin or religion. He further assured that they will help Sierra Leone achieve more on increased tax and revenue generation. He said for the first time Sierra Leoneans will benefit from Sierra Leone’s natural wealth.
Meanwhile, the places where the Kingho Investment Company Limited will be focusing on Iron Ore mining are Sambaia, Dansogoia, Simiria, Kafe and Tane chiefdoms all in the Tonkilili District of the Northern Province of Sierra Leone.
Also worthy to note is that Kingho Investment Company Limited is a subsidiary of China Kingho Energy Group with headquarter located in Beijing, China. It is seeking to successfully develop the Tonkolili Iron Ore Project in Sierra Leone.
Hence the reason why it has flown into the country a group of expatriates to revamp the Sierra Leone Iron Ore sector together with a whopping investment of millions of dollars.
Illicit Timber Trade in Sierra Leone not only has adverse effects on the environment, but it is also reportedly causing an economic burden on the government and people of the West African nation, according to Abdul Karim Dumbuya, Communications Officer of the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL). Despite years of laws and restrictions, Dumbuya said added that Sierra Leone’s precious timber is still being exported abroad and unless something is done, the country’s woodlands will have been destroyed within decades.
He said it was clear that some companies and individuals embarking on illicit timber trade do not want to pay tax to the government. This is the reason why they normally use illegal routes in the borders of Sierras Leone to transport their commodities, Dumbuya added.
The impact of tax evasion, according to Abu Bakarr Kamara, Coordinator of Budget Advocacy Network, is that "The huge financial loss accrued in the sector could have been used to finance some government flagship programs like the Free Quality Education and the Free Healthcare for children under five, pregnant women and lactating mothers."
Meanwhile, the government of Sierra Leone stated in a press release dated 20th February 2020 that a total of US$ 37,050,000 (thirty-seven million and fifty thousand United States Dollars) has been realized from the levies on the legal export of 13,000 containers of timber since the restrictions were temporarily lifted in June 2018.
“Out of this amount, US$4,640,000 (four million, six hundred and forty thousand United States Dollars) has been dedicated to reforestation and US $32,500,000 (thirty-two million, five hundred thousand United States Dollars) transferred to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The US$32,500,000 has been part of the budgetary resources used to finance Government programs,” the release noted.
What the government referred to as a major success scored on timber trade led to a further announcement of another 7,000-container franchise for export by Leedway Trading Company, the company responsible for the legal exports since 2018, following the exhaustion of the initial 13,000 containers.
The above figures quoted are not, however, equivalent to the major loss realized in the timber trade especially in porous border communities where there is a report of rampant illicit transportation of timber logs to mostly neighboring Guinea for onward shipment to China. US$120 million of economic value is lost annually as a result of illicit timber trade, according to a research done by the Civil Society Movement in Kambia District, Northwest of Sierra Leone.
Recently, seven trucks loaded with timber logs were arrested by the Police following intelligence from local communities that some Guinean registered trailer vehicles loaded full with thousands of pieces of domestic timbers were alleged en route to neighboring Guinea with the use of fake evidence of tax payment. In February this year, Sierra Leone's Resident Minister Northwest, Haja Isata Abdulai Kamara, together with some Police and Revenue
Authorities at the scene of the crime told Standard Times that they had discovered some documents tendered by the smugglers for inspection to prove the legitimacy of the exportation deal between Sierra Leone's Trade Ministry on one hand and a local company, Piltu Clearing and Forwarding Agency on the other and these include an export authorization document issued by the Ministry of Trade.
Earth Sierra Leone, an Environment protection local organization, stated recently that it has discovered a significant number of loaded trucks of timber that had been smuggled through porous border communities to neighboring Guinea, noting that some Revenue Officers are allegedly conniving with the smugglers to bypass the legal trade network.
Although Revenue Authorities in Kambia District, Northwest of Sierra Leone, have denied having illegal dealings with the illegal timber traders, Earth Sierra Leone says the trade is mostly allowed to go through Guinea for onward shipment to China.
The Organization revealed that illegal timber trade in Sierra Leone are often in large volume and involve loggers, transporters, some government authorities, banks where financial transactions are done, and some major companies that have amassed wealth through the illegal business over the years; and all these are done at the detriment of mostly poor Sierra Leoneans and their communities.
Earth Sierra Leone is another local organization that produced a report on the issue in mid-2019, stating that the smugglers prefer paying US$2, 000 and below per long trailer vehicle instead of the normal US$4, 000 per forty feet container charged at Sierra Leone’s main port. “This is a huge financial loss to the state,” says Abu Bakarr Daramy, Executive Director of Earth Sierra Leone. Joseph Rahal, Director of a local Nongovernmental Organization, Green Scenery said his organization has been calling for a permanent ban on timber logging and exportation to save the country’s green environment and economic sector. “Sierra Leone has lost so much of its natural endowments that the government must put measures in place to ensure it benefits greatly now and in the future,” Rahal said.
This story was produced by Standard Times Newspaper. It was written as part of Wealth of Nations, a media skills development programme run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in partnership with the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism. More information at www.wealth-of-nations.org. The content is the sole responsibility of the author and the publisher.
Honorable Sidie Mohamed Tunis, the Leader of Government Business in the Sierra Leone House of Parliament has on Monday 30th September 2019 spoken at the Commonwealth ICT and Telecommunications Forum 2019, which is currently ongoing in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from Monday 30th September to Wednesday 1st October 2019.
Bollore Group in Sierra Leone, which is a transport and logistics company in charge of the Queen Elizabeth II Quay, has today September 26, 2019 joined other conglomerate of the company across the world to participate in the Marathon day which is the solidarity run of Bolloré Group.
Bollore Group Sierra Leone Participates in 4th Edition of Marathon Day; An Annual Charity Event Benefiting the SOS Children’s Village
Freetown,Thursday, September 26th 2019: On Thursday 26th September,2019 395 employees from Bolloré Group Sierra Leone took part in the 4th edition of the Marathon Day. This internal sporting event was created by Cyrille Bolloré, CEO of the Bolloré Group, to raise every year, funds for charity organisations.
Captain Fabjanko Kokan, Sierra Leone Country Manager of Bolloré Transport and Logistics, a renowned port handler in France with branches in more than 105 countries across the globe, has said that investing in human capital is the key to their success in Sierra Leone over the last eight (8) years.
The Parliament of Sierra Leone has on Wednesday 19th June 2019 debated and approved the Second Report of the Committee on Appointments and the Public Service, chaired by the Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mohamed Sidie Tunis.