By Mahmud Tim Kargbo
Mining continue to be an important driver of economic growth in many developing countries. There is growing consensus, however, that society must manage mining to catalyse broad-based economic development whilst simultaneously achieving maximum social and economic benefits. Yet in Sierra Leone, concerns remain on whether the liquidated Kingho iron ore company now called Leone Rock which is the operator of the railing port at Pepel and uses the infrastructure for only one million two hundred and fifty thousand United States dollars per year, is actually declaring the true volume of it exports to the government of Sierra Leone.
With these concerns, the government of Sierra Leone determine to ensure a win-win situation for investors and Sierra Leoneans in the mining sector, processed and assessed the iron ore exports developmental impacts, both positive and negative, from which indicators were developed for an independent rail and port company. This idea of an independent rail and port company stressed the need to focused on issues of equity, how government will enhance actual revenue in the exportation of iron ore in a transparent and accountable manner, poverty alleviation and the potential opportunity for Sierra Leone to have home grown industries that will produce steel bars for export.
The government of President Bio realised that as a country, it is not always that Sierra Leone gets the opportunity to have a grand breaking chance to effectively use it resource and liberate its people from poverty. To avoid a repetition of the 1972 odd experience in our mining sector, when the Sierra Leone Selection Trust company (SLST) handed over the diamond mines to Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone took 51% free carry interest without any capital investment in to the mines. Whereas the private sector company that operated the National Diamond Mining Company (NDMC) held 49% with 100% capitalisation of the NDMC investment. This arrangement, coupled with the massive corruption of Jamil Sahid Mohamed Khalil, late President Siaka Stevens economic predator, the National Diamond Mining Company couldn’t be true in to any ambitious diamond mining. Sierra Leone was forced to only focused on surface alluvial mining because the National Diamond Mining Company lacked the required capital to engaged in large scale mining. This inaccurate decision from the previous government of late Siaka Probyn Stevens, destroyed the economy of Sierra Leone and made alluvial diamonds catalyst of the eleven years civil war.
Today in 2023, a similar opportunity has arisen. Sierra Leone has an important mining Infrastructure ( Pepel port and Tonkolili rail ) which can open the mining sector, increase revenues and enhance transparency and accountability in the export of solid minerals from Sierra Leone. The government of President Bio has taken the bold step to release the pulse of monopolist from this important infrastructure to enable it development expansion for multi users purposes. Over the years, companies have reported subjectively export volumes to government from which meager royalties are paid to the state. With an independent rail and port company, all solid minerals leaving in Sierra Leone can now be tracked, and properly quantified to enable accurate and fair taxation.
Tonkolili mine has 12.8 billion metric tons of iron ore which is divided in to north and south concessions. South concessions is presently operated by Kingho or Leone Rock mining company. Where as the north which holds the largest deposit is remote and unexploited because it lacks 25 kilometers of rail connection to the existing Tonkolili rail. What this means is that Kingho or Leone Rock controls the entire 12.8 billion metric tons preventing other players from accessing the remaining 7 to 8 billion metric tons in the Tonkolili north concession. Having an independent rail and port company that will provide haulage services for all the mining companies in the northern province will ensure that government properly taxes all minerals, create more opportunities for Sierra Leoneans and increase revenues by breaking the present Kingho monopoly chain.