Friday 20th August 2010 saw the biggest ever Mining Agreement in Sierra Leone unanimously ratified by the entire House of Parliament. First to speak in the Well of Parliament was the Honorable Minister of Mineral Resources and Political Affairs Alhaji Alpha Kanu who informed that Sierra Leone can only attract more investors into the Country if our mineral resources are mined judiciously. He furthered that signing the agreement which will commence the first phase of the project is an indication that the African Minerals Company is set for development and that they are ready to partner with the government for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs). He also informed that the excitement behind the agreement will increase by 2012 when the operation would have started as our revenue generation from that company would increase exponentially by 2012 and will skyrocket when full-scale production commenced in 2018.
In her contribution, opposition SLPP strongwoman Hon. Bernadette Lahai who represents Constituency 13 in the Kenema District said she hoped to see the agreement under review put into effective operation adding that as Member of Parliament and also a member of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Mining, she supported the Agreement. She expressed hope that the company will significantly impact on job creations as well as pay due recognition to environmental impact of relocation of communities, adding that many companies fail to properly address this issues which according to her affect the lives of the people and the country. She pointed out that several agreements have been passed into law, noting that the leased agreements of both the London Mining and the African Minerals are good for the development of this Nation. She further called on African Minerals Limited to also ensure that the host communities are aware of the agreement so that everybody will know his or her responsibilities in the agreement. She urged officials of the African Mineral Limited to be open and transparent in their operations with a view to help the country to develop. When she questioned the Mines Minister on matter relating to the treatment meted out to London Mining in terms of concessions, as against African Minerals, in response, the Minister said it was just a special plan to lure in more investors especially in the Mining Sector. "The early bird caught the worm" he said of London Mining’s significantly higher concessions.
Responding to a question that was posed to Minister Kanu by Hon. Bernadette Lahai on the percentage of net-profit to be received by government, the Minister said that the government will receive 41% while the company will be left with the remaining 59%. He said in Ghana, the State only receives 28% of the company’s net-profit adding that according to a lot of mining agreements worldwide, States only receive 20% with the remaining 80% being for the company. He urged members of parliament to put aside partisanship and instead demonstrate their commitment for the sake of national development.
The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Mining, APC’s Honourable Chernor Maju Bah from the Western Area said the committee has spent adequate time to digest the agreement adding that it would help Sierra Leone towards economic independence and will also help the government to acquire equity through royals and taxes. He said as parliamentarians it is their responsibility to work for the interest of their subjects. Hon. Maju Bah stated that the agreement would make the Government capable of handling its own affairs and would further prevent the Government from its usual movements of going round the Globe begging of foreign donors. He said this agreement is very important to the country and the people of Sierra Leone, adding that among other things, the agreement would bring hope to the people of this country. In this agreement, he went on, the advantage outweighs the disadvantage, especially when the Government has the right to review the agreement within five years. He stressed the need for both parties to abide by the agreements, while urging parliamentarians to support the bill so that the vehicle for the agenda for change will move on.
Hon. Sheika Sama of the PMDC, another Member of Parliament expressed happiness over the agreement, as according to him, it is the biggest investment ever signed by any Government in the history of this country, adding that the money set to be generated as a result of this agreement, will be used to provide basic amenities for all Sierra Leoneans. Hon. Sama said this Country has been blessed with so many Mineral resources; but unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals have been using this opportunity to develop other Countries. He maintained that, this time, members of Parliament will monitor any Mining Agreement properly to ensure that no exploitation occurs.
Another MP Alhaji Ansu Kaikai of the SLPP representing Pujehun District called on government to ensure that all regions benefit from this agreement, adding that development and employment of workers should not only concentrate on a single region.
Hon Alimamy Kamara of the APC representing Bombali said African Minerals has already provided employments for over 2,000 (Two Thousand) youths in the country and that if the agreement is ratified, more youths will be employed by the same company.
Hon. Paramount Chief (PC) Kanagbaro Kasanga expressed hopes that Government’s financial projection corresponds with the company’s actual realised income.
Acting Minority Leader Emmanuel Tommy of the SLPP pointed out that they are not opposing the agreement because the Agenda for Change Programme now adopted by President Koroma started since 2001 when the SLPP was in power and included the innovative changes for Minerals sector. He however said that they are hoping to see that Section 110 of the Sierra Leone Constitution was complied with. Hon. Emmanuel Tommy expressed hopes that the company would not be monopolized by Tonkolili, and that it should employ every Sierra Leonean irrespective of tribe or political affiliation. He cited that while they were consulting with the Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, they expressed their concerns that Iron Ore proceeds will be equitably invested for the benefit of the nation.
After the Agreement was ratified, Majority Leader Hon. SBB Dumbuya commended the government and AML for reaching such an agreement. He assured the opposition MPs that the proceeds will be equitably distributed as the APC party stands for the betterment of the entire nation. Furthermore, he thanked the opposition (SLPP) for supporting the government in seeing through the passage of this all important piece of legislation, adding that the SLPP has always supported the government in the furtherance of legislations that benefit the Country, which he said was the right way to practice democratic Politics.