MINISTER OF MINES AND MINERAL RESOURCES REOPENS TONKOLILI IRON ORE MINE

March 30, 2021 0 By admin

The Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Musa Timothy Kabbah, on 20th March 2021, officially reopened the Tonkolili Iron Ore Mine, at a well-attended ceremony at Ferengbeya Village in Tonkolili District. The ceremony, which attracted senior Government officials, the local population, Chinese Government representatives in Sierra Leone and top executives of Kingho Mining Company (KMC), signalled the start of full-scale mining operations by Kingho Mining Company in Tonkolili.

In his statement, the Director General of the National Minerals Agency (NMA), Julius Daniel Mattai, noted that these are exciting times for Sierra Leone, as the country is witnessing the resurgence of mining activities. He noted that Sierra Leone is richly endowed with minerals, but pointed out that the minerals cannot manage themselves and that if Sierra Leoneans must benefit from the mineral endowment the people must be disciplined in their approach. He called for discipline at all levels, explaining that it is easy to say that Government must regulate the mining companies, but that if the regulators, the Government functionaries and the ordinary citizens are not disciplined it will not yield positive results. The Director General informed the gathering that the Tonkolili Iron Ore deposit is the second largest in Africa, and different mining companies had exploited it with no positive footprint in the community to reflect this wealth. This, he said, was why the NMA decided to change the way things are done, although many had misunderstood this change of direction, resulting to unfounded allegations. He maintained that there was a need to learn from the mistakes of the past and build mutually beneficial relationships to change the story of the ordinary Sierra Leonean, and he assured the gathering that the NMA will perform its role to make sure that all Sierra Leoneans benefit from the country’s minerals. 

In his Keynote address, the Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Musa Timothy Kabba, noted that it was indeed a big day for the people of Tonkolili and all Sierra Leoneans, as the Tonkolili Iron Ore Mine, which had gone through several phases (some turbulent) and changes in ownership, will now commence operation under the management of KMC.  He pointed out that the Bumbuna story was no different from the story in other mining districts in the country: misery amidst plenty. This, he explained, was why President Dr Julius Maada Bio made it his avowed aim to ensure effective and efficient management of the minerals sector so that all Sierra Leoneans will benefit. He commended KMC for taking the brave step to invest in the Tonkolili Project at a time when the entire world was coping with the challenges and economic depression resulting from the COVID 19 pandemic. The Minister pointed out that the company had already spent millions of dollars on equipment to restart the mines, which was in a state of ruin when they took it over, but the company did not make any noise about it. Minister Kabba called on the company to increase their support to the community, and admonished the community to be realistic in their expectations, to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship. He noted that there were many reasons to be optimistic as the company had long term plans to build a steel processing plant, which will create employment and promote skills transfer. He assured the gathering that the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources and the National Minerals Agency will do all they can, and work with all stakeholders to ensure that the Tonkolili mine and all mining projects succeed. 

Earlier, a representative of the Chinese Embassy in Sierra Leone praised KMC for their resilience, having surmounted several obstacles since they came to Sierra Leone in 2010, including the Ebola epidemic, the global crash in commodities prices and the COVID 19 pandemic; noting that this resilience had paid off with the reopening of the Tonkolili mines. She assured the gathering that China will continue to support Chinese investments in Sierra Leone, and called on KMC to respect and comply with all local laws.

The CEO of KMC, Gilbert Jhao, expressed gratitude to the Government and people of Sierra Leone for the support they received in putting things together to start the mine. He assured all that the company will contribute to national development, promote local content and support women. 

The Resident Minister Northern Province, Abu Abu Koroma, called for mutual respect between the company and the community, noting that this is crucial for successful operations. The ceremony climaxed with the departure of a trainload of the first consignment of iron-ore mined by KMC in Tonkolili.