Some two years ago Sierra Leone iron-ore industry was faced with the twin shocks of Ebola and the falling price of iron ore in the world market but the country has been making steady progress in the sector only for it to be punctuated by a brawl between the Minister of Mines, Rado Yokie, National Mineral Agency (NMA) and the mining companies.
One of such mining companies, British owned SL Mining who remains adamant has accused the government of extortion
They made this accusation in a letter responding to the Minister of Mines in which they emphasized that the ban on the mining company is illegal.
“Firstly and as stated above and in prior correspondence, including from our international lawyers representing us, the suspension on shipping is unlawful and there are no grounds for such under SL Mining’s large scale licence agreement ratified by the Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone (the “MLA”) or pursuant to any other laws in Sierra Leone, including the Mines and Minerals Act, 2009 (the “Act”),” they stated.
That SL Mining has an enshrined right to export iron ore from its Marampa project and that the bond referred to by the Minister of mines is not relevant nor required.
That Even if a bond was put in place it could never be called on as SL Mining did make substantial progress towards the re- opening of the Marampa Mine within a period of 12 months from the date of ratification of the MLA.
That the request for a bond while SL Mining is not allowed to ship unless it agrees to a list of made up demands not based in law or logic is clearly an attempt to extort US$ 1 million.
They described the action of the government and by extension the minister of mines and NMA as “outrageous and illegal tactics.”
“An advance pricing agreement is not relevant nor required under the MLA and therefore imposing a shipping ban is a form of extortion as we are not able to earn revenues while the Ministry and the NMA make demands that are against the law and our MLA,” they added.
They made it categorically clear that they are always willing to pay their royalties by the due date and in full compliance with its obligations.
Earlier, the Minister of Mines in a letter written to SL Mining said that he could lift the ban on the company provided they fulfill over seven conditions which include a $1M dollar payment of fine and a renegotiation of the Mining Lease Agreement.