In a bid to properly regulate and manage artisanal mining, as required by the Mines and Minerals Act 2009, the landowners of Sanda Loko Chiefdom and AMR Gold, in close cooperation with the NMA, have on Friday 23 November 2015 launched the Sanda Loko Cooperative Mining Society.
The launch, which brought over four hundred community people together, was witnessed by Mines Monitoring Officers, Sierra Leone Police, Civil Society monitoring groups, journalists and other Chiefdom stakeholders.
Addressing the Landowners and other stakeholders in Kindia Section, Sanda Loko Chiefdom, Bombali District, the Paramount Chief of Sanda Loko Chiefdom Samura Fombo III, commended AMR Gold management for what he described as a “laudable concept to rebrand the mining sector for sustainable development.”
He said the Chiefdom is ready to work with AMR Gold because the company has introduced a concept that is not only managed and controlled by the Landowners, but creates more jobs for the community.
PC Fombo explained how prior to the launch of the cooperative, a number of discussions had taken place with the indigenes including landowners, Paramount Chiefs and other local stakeholders and the general consensus was that most were and are supportive of the cooperative.
(l-r) PC Fombo, Dr P.J.Ketelaar and Lamin Sesay publicly signing the Cooperative Agreement
The Coordinator of the cooperative, Lamin Sesay, maintained that the Sanda Loko Cooperative Mining Society is going to be managed and controlled by its membership, explaining that it is registered with the Register General’s Office and the National Minerals Agency. He stated that unemployment poses a big challenge to the Government and one of the ways to help reduce the high unemployment rate is through the creation of artisanal mining cooperatives.
Mr. Sesay said he is hopeful that the Sanda Loko Mining Cooperative will help more youths into gainful employment in the Chiefdom. He appealed to the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources to replicate this initiative in other parts of the country. He further noted that each cooperative group has the potential to gainfully employ over two hundred and fifty people with rights to shareholdings.
AMR Gold’s Country Director, Dr. Jan P.J.Ketelaar, observed that whilst engaging with the local communities it is apparent that artisanal mining, as practiced at present, is mostly in contravention of the Sierra Leone Mines and Minerals Act 2009, and brings very few benefits to the miners and a lot less to the local communities and landowners, as well as creating environmental damage by sterilizing agricultural soil that is not being rehabilitated. Artisanal mining, if not done correctly, can also has a negative effect on the water quality which creates problems for villages downstream from the mining areas.
He went on to state that artisanal mining practices seem very inefficient and as such do not effectively recover the bulk of the minerals and metals from the areas being mined. He believes that this practice causes a huge loss to the local artisanal miners and landowners, a loss of revenue to the State and, importantly, a major degradation of the country’s mineral resources.
In order to partner with the Government of Sierra Leone to address this age old problem, Dr. P.J. Ketelaar noted that AMR Gold acknowledged that a more regulated and better organized artisanal mining community could play an important role in the resurrection of the Sierra Leone indigenous mining sector post-Ebola. He stated that AMR Gold is committed to the concept of artisanal cooperative mining and requests that the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, the NMA, the EPA and other stakeholders including the Paramount Chiefs, landowners and local administrators are encouraged to work with AMR Gold to make this concept viable.
He added that since this is a new concept in the Loko Hills area, AMR Gold is considering the possibility of providing, for an initial 2-3 month period, all equipment to the artisanal mining groups including shovels, picks, head pans and pumps as well as an efficient 8-cubic meter per hour jig.
“AMR Gold will fund the cooperatives to enable them pay the salaries of their workers,” said the AMR Gold Country Director, adding that AMR Gold will teach the artisanal miners effective and efficient mining practices targeting recoveries of 90% of the mineral present (a major increase over the present estimated 65%).
He informed that the revenues from the sale of the coltan will be distributed according to the agreements entered into between AMR Gold and the Cooperatives and it is hoped that a portion of the funds will be used to support local community programmes.
According to him, the Paramount Chief who is the Chairman of the Cooperative Committee, will be the person who will determine the best use of available funds in his Chiefdom. He stressed further that the intention is to make the cooperatives self-sufficient and able to work in partnership with AMR Gold.
Dr Ketelaar affirmed that with this partnership, the local cooperative mining groups will sell their minerals at a competitive international buying price.
As a transparent and accountable company, Dr. P. J. Ketelaar reiterated that all gravels and other ores excavated by the artisanal miners will be carried to the jig and efficiently processed under the supervision of representatives of the cooperative, landowners, AMR Gold and the National Minerals Agency.
All recovered coltan, gold and cassiterite will be weighed and recorded as required under law and the daily production secured.
The signing of the Cooperative Agreement between AMR Gold and the Sanda Loko Cooperative Mining society was the climax of the occasion.
It is however expected that Sella Limba Chiefdom will soon launch their own artisanal mining cooperative.
The story was covered in local media and can be seen here.