African Mineral Limited has concluded its public disclosure stage one of the Environmental, Social and Health Impact Assessment (ESHIA) report on the Tonkolili Iron Ore project. This marked the first of several events to come. After successful meetings held in Bumbuna, Makeni, Lunsar, Port Loko, Pepel and Lungi, the event which marks the first undertaken by a mining company in the history of Sierra Leone, was concluded at the Prestigious Taia Resort Hotel on Monday 18th October 2010.
Present at the final meeting were various stakeholders in the public and private sector, civil society representatives, the media and a cross section of the public.
Addressing the gathering, Victor Koroma of the Civil Society Initiative said African Minerals has set the pace for others to follow. He condemned those organizations that are using their ‘selfishness’ to condemn development activities in the country. “We are all Civil Society Members. We should be complementing the good work of government and companies like African Minerals that are in Sierra Leone to provide a bread basket to economic development,” Mr. Koroma said, adding: “We should not in any way disturb development process in Sierra Leone.”
Mr. Koroma informed his audience that they in the Civil Society endorse the good work of African Minerals in protecting the environment.
The National Coordinator of the Environmental Forum for Action, ENFORAC, Ansumana Swaray, said sustainable development requires human and material resources. “We accept the fact that there has to be measures to manage our little resources to benefit future generations. We support the move made by African Minerals to protect the environment,” the National Coordinator affirmed. He appealed to the company to continue to ensure the free flow of information on the environment in the various areas of operation.
The Board Chairperson of Sierra Leone Environmental Protection Agency, Jattu Jalloh, said it is obligatory for all mining companies to protect their environment for future development. She commended African Minerals for completing the ESHIA report and also for educating and getting the views of the people. The SLEPA Board Chair appealed to civil society organizations to join hands in the development of Sierra Leone, and further warned that they should stop denting the good image of the country at international level.
The Minister of Mines, Alpha Kanu said the good effort of African Minerals in managing the environment is a reconciliation of government’s commitment to develop mines management.
The report was done after the company undertook an ESHIA study with a view to minimize potential negative environmental, social and health impacts which is in conformity with the Sierra Leone Environmental Protection Agency (SLEPA) Act 2008.
One of AML’s policies is to conform to internationally recognize environmental laws and regulations and to promote the respect of the environment in all of its business activities and in compliance to the Equator Principles.
Giving an overview of the Project, African Minerals’ Social and Community Relations Manager, Colin Forbes said since they discovered the 10.5 billion tons of hematite and magnetite in Sierra Leone, they have in mind to undertake a comprehensive environmental assessment. He added that since phase I of the project involves the mining of the top layer which is the hematite of about 8m tons, there is need to undertake such a project with the help of consultants and contractors that were required to support the Company’s efforts to protect and preserve the environment. He noted that the mining of hematite will help to raise funds for phase II of the project which is the mining of magnetite. Mr. Forbes informed the gathering that the company had appointed consultative committees that will be meeting the affected communities. “They are charged with the responsibility of managing social and community issues. They will listen to the concerns of the people and report to AML for action,” the Social and Community Relations Manager said.
Presenting the report to the community, AML’s Environmental Manager, Andy Huckbody, said lot of experts and university students were involved in the project. He reiterated the fact that it is good that Sierra Leone has been reviewing it mining laws. “I am happy that SLEPA is determining to do a very good job in accordance to the laws of the land. We have the potential to destroy water in the environment but we will always give our commitment to demonstrate best practices of international standard,” he said. Mr. Huckbody informed the gathering that they are managing an environmental social fund for the safety of the people. “In the coming months we shall be involving various groups like agro forestry to help protect the environment. This process is very transparent and we welcome SLEPA to come to our site at any time for inspection,” the Environmental Manager revealed.
A Board Member of SLEPA, Bishop Tamba Abu Koroma said the Agency is augmenting the dream of President Koroma in meeting the welfare needs of the people. “We have noticed that there are some companies that leave the people at environmental risk after completing their operations. If we notice that the content of the AML ESHIA report is not correct we will take the appropriate action,” he noted, and cited an example to the closure of the Bauxite Mines recently because of flouting environmental laws.
The meeting was chaired by Danny Rannumo, General Manager Rail and Port.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.