African News

Open Letter to London Mining-Sierra Leone

12 July 2013 at 21:51 | 1308 views

Dear Sir/Madam:

Most Sierra Leoneans received news of the re-opening of the Marampa Iron-Ore mine with tremendous enthusiasm as they should, especially as the country was only slowly climbing out of the morass into which it was violently thrown by a brutal and crippling war. The hope of London Mining infusing much needed revenue into the national coffers and providing the opportunity for Sierra Leoneans to earn, at minimum, a decent living wage was worth the country’s welcoming embrace.

But for adult descendants of Lunsar town who witnessed the drama of the closure of the Marampa Mine in 1975, it was a moment of mixed feelings when London Mining came to redevelop the mine. After four decades of iron ore mining in Marampa chiefdom, the Sierra Leone Development Company, popularly known as DELCO, was forced to close shop by low iron ore prices at the time. The company suddenly folded, packed, and left. Everyone who was not born in Lunsar, also packed and left. It became clear to the citizens of Marampa chiefdom that after all those years of shipping tons and tons of iron ore to foreign shores, there was very little Lunsar town could show for it. Not a single investment in healthcare, education, or infrastructure. A once bustling town suddenly turned into a ghost town; a place where hope came only to die.

It also became clear that while revenue from the mine was used for, or was supposed to be used for national development, the environmental and other effects of the mining operations were directly and immediately felt by Lunsar and its environs, not the entire country. Hence, the mixed feelings.

On one hand, London Mining brought hope that the lives of the local population of that chiefdom would improve significantly because the young and able-bodied, the skilled, the unskilled, the educated and non-educated, all would have a chance to earn their living. That those in business would thrive because of the robust economic activities that mining was supposed to trigger. On the other, the historical scars of neglect, fraud, abandonment, environmental degradation, insensitive exploitation, and the consequent underdevelopment that the previous mining company, DELCO, stamped on the face of Lunsar, are still haunting that chiefdom’s adult population. Could London Mining be a repeat performance of Delco? And so, we have been watching very closely how things are being done in Lunsar and the chiefdom since the advent of London Mining. We visit, spend a lot of time in Lunsar interacting with our people, and some have even contributed, and continue to contribute significantly to the development of the town in several ways.

We are very much cognizant of the fact that the Government of Sierra Leone signed an extremely flawed Mining Agreement in 2009, whose revision still leaves much to be desired. We suspect that the government’s hands may be tied tightly behind their backs at the moment. But it is the responsibility of informed citizens to stand up and speak out against any form of exploitation. It is against this backdrop that we, the undersigned descendants of Lunsar, wish to raise the following concerns with London Mining:

1. Land grabbing: London Mining has been placing beacons at strategic locations in Lunsar town, claiming that those places are within the boundaries of the leased land. One of these beacons was placed on Guadalupe Street where the oldest Secondary School in Lunsar, the Guadalupe Secondary School, stands. The people of Lunsar and the entire chiefdom see this as an attempt by London Mining to wipe Lunsar off the face of the map. They see this move as a show of total disrespect for both the local people and the history of the town. We are urging London Mining to immediately take all those beacons out and leave our town intact. We will fiercely resist any attempt to bury our town in the shallow grave of corporate profit. Let us refer London Mining to certain subsections of Section 32 of the Mines and Minerals Act, 2009:

32 (1) The holder of a mineral right shall not exercise any of his rights under the mineral rights-

(a) in respect of any land dedicated or set apart for any public purpose other than mining

including any street, road, highway, or aerodrome except with the written consent

of the responsible minister or other authority having control over such land;

(b) except with the written consent of the owner or lawful occupier or his duly authorized agent, in respect of-

(ii) any land which is the site of, or which is within two hundred metres or such greater distance as may be prescribed, of any inhabited, occupied or temporarily unoccupied house or building;

The people of Lunsar are not aware of any “responsible minister” or “other authority” having surrendered their houses, streets, and roads to London Mining. If London Mining continues to threaten our houses and streets, we will immediately seek redress outside the shores of Sierra Leone. This move will face the fiercest resistance from the people of Lunsar.

2. Employment of local population: Through interviews and anecdotal evidence, it is clear that local youths are passed over for employment. The argument is that they do not have the education and skills needed for those jobs. However, an investigation of the hiring process, and a good look at who have been hired, suggest that London Mining’s argument is full of holes. This is an area the company needs to address immediately to stave off disruptions of mining activities. London Mining should start advertising in Lunsar for all the jobs to see if the local people are qualified for such jobs.

3. Local contracting: Our investigation clearly reveals that London Mining contracts of all kinds are given not to individuals from among the local population, but to those from outside. This is also another area of serious discontent and potential explosion.

4. Dangerous columns of dust: London Mining, in its bid to haul iron ore from the Mine to the RoThofeyim river terminal, constructed a dirt road that passes by some residential areas. This haul road is plied everyday by huge trailers and tippers hauling the ore to the river terminal. The population living near this dirt road has for long been complaining about the huge columns of dust raised by the trailers and tippers. No one has taken the time to address this health concern. This is a health hazard that London Mining should immediately address. This dust is mixed with oil dripping from the trailers and tippers and can be seriously inimical to the health of the people who inhale it. We urge London Mining to take the necessary steps to resolve this issue by paving the strip of the road along which people reside.

Sincerely,

Francis O.B. Smith

Senior Technical Manager

Alcatel-Lucent

Sprint Network Eng. Vision Project

4g-LTE/3G-EVDO Wireless Networks

USA

M. Saidu Kabia, Ph.D. (French and Comparative Literature)

(PaKuma Crowning House, not Kennedie)

Associate Professor

Virginia State University

USA

Paul A. Kabba

USA

Abdul Med Bangura, MST, CFE, CFSA, CPA

USA

Amadu Sampha Jalloh, Jr., MSMET/MIS, BSEE

Broadband/Data Network

Engineer

USA

Hassan Baraka, M.Sc. (Hons)

Businessman and Writer

USA

Sheikh Umarr Kamarah, Ph.D.

Professor of English and Linguistics

Virginia State University

USA .

Photo: Sheik Umarr Kamarah, one of the signatories of the letter.

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