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NEWS : Local News  

In Sierra Leone, DARWIN Project Revitalizes Wastes of Rutile Mines
By Bampia Bundu
Dec 18, 2009, 17:32
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The first phase of a three-year project, funded by the UK DARWIN Initiative Fund, to rehabilitate wastes of the Sierra Rutile Mines has ended successfully.

This was disclosed at a days workshop held on the 1st December 2009 at the Kimbima Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown.

The project was pioneered by a non governmental organization called Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA), local communities, Sierra Rutile Limited staff, local universities including Fourah Bay College (FBC) and Njala University, Scientists from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, among others.

In his statement, the Country Director of the Project, Mr. Tommy Garnett, who doubles as Regional Director of Environment Foundation Africa (EFA), noted that: "The way we have been doing business in Sierra Leone, especially the extraction of our natural resources has been irresponsible and unsustainable. If business continues as it is right now we are heading straight for disaster." he said.

He stated that they have to find ways to do things differently, adding that what the three year experiment is all about is to look for durable implementation alternatives.

He pointed out that the discussions held at the workshop has given them some hope on how they can bring together the civil society, government, the scientists, and the business people to sit at the table and do business differently.

Mr. Garnett disclosed that his organization is already in possession with funds provided by the UK DARWIN Initiative; have access to the companies resources, scientists, the local people, the NGOs, community people, and other technical advisors, backed by his organisations wealth of experience in undertaking experiments.

Speaking also, the DARWIN Project Leader, Dr. Jan Dick, stated that the project proved that rehabilitating the mine wastes was technically possible and could improve the livelihoods of local communities by paying them to produce compost which when spread on the mine wastes turn it green and produce trees over two meters tall in just two and half years.

She welcomed Sierra Rutile Limited commitment to rehabilitate the land and for the interest the company has demonstrated to the DARWIN project.

"The experimental price of compost was too high to be sustainable," commented Dr. Dick, whilst advising the local people to be reasonable and to contribute towards creating a sustainable trade in compost, which will provide income for many years. She revealed that she felt very happy to behold the discussions of participants with relation to the economic aspects of rehabilitation.

"If you cant make a profit from digging up the mineral, you should not dig it up in the first place," this was the simple message from one of the participants.

In a meeting held between the General Manager of SRL and the DARWIN team recently, the General Manager of Sierra Rutile Limited, Mr. Sahr Wooday, disclosed that the titanium oxide mined in Impere Chiefdom, Bonthe District, Sierra Leone, by Sierra Rutile Limited (SRL) is used around the world to make white paint bright, and in many white creams, but also in welding rods to make everything from chairs to cars from bridges to buildings. He expressed his companys commitment to follow best industry practice and rehabilitate the mining wastes as stated in their environmental social action plan.

The Paramount Chief of Impere, Madam Hawa, was very impressed when she visited the experimental plots at Lanti North. She praised everyone involved and stressed the importance of involving local people. She called on SRL to continue purchasing compost from the communities in order to speed up the process of rehabilitation so the land could be useful for her people again. "It is amazing to see the white sand turns green after such a short time," said one of the local villagers during a site visit to the demonstration plots established by SRL as part of the DARWIN project.

Thirty local villagers visited the plots as part of a workshop held by the project team to explain the results of the project on 24th November 2009.


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