SL Mining Limited raised concern over the arrest of five of its staff- four expatriates and one local worker with a dual citizenship while at the same time urged President Bio to halt all acts of intimidation against the company.
They express their frustration in a press release published on the company’s website.
“We urge His Excellency President Maada Bio to take urgent action to prevent the unnecessary endangerment of human life and halt these acts of intimidation currently targeting SL Mining,” they stated
They also appealed to the local authorities to act in a responsible manner, uphold fundamental human rights, and allow any investigation to be undertaken at the mining site, as the management team of SL Mining clearly does not pose any flight risk.
That the safety and well-being of every employee is their utmost priority and that they have sought the involvement of the relevant embassies for their immediate release as no formal charges have been made for their arrest at this point adding that the Company’s offer of bail has been denied.
“We are naturally very concerned for the health and safety of our employees who continue to be detained at time when the country is in a state of emergency due to Covid-19. We strongly object to their arrest and continued detention. SL Mining is a responsible mining company, and we share the diplomatic communities’ concern and bewilderment regarding recent events of violence and public disorder in Sierra Leone. SL Mining strongly condemns any acts of violence and would never condone any such acts, and as well frowns upon the Government’s actions of allowing the arrest of individuals, the targeting and removal of senior employees, when any such investigation could have taken place at the mine site. The senior employees of SL Mining do not pose any flight risk, the airport in Sierra Leone remains closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the management of SL Mining are astonished that the Government of Sierra Leone has taken our employees out of the safe sterile environment on the mine site during the Covid-19 pandemic,” a spokesman of SL Mining maintained
That the arrest of their employees this week appears to be an unwarranted attempt to pressure and intimidate the company, while they are in a legal process relating to the purported cancellation of the Company’s mineral and mining rights.
Presidential Adviser and Head of Strategic Communications, Dr PK Muana said that the President has not ordered the arrests of SL Mining employees and has never done so, noting that Sierra Leone is a sovereign state with laws and that those laws cover criminal matter.
He pointed out that the police can act within the laws of this country to investigate criminal matters but insisted, “the Office of the President has nothing to do with criminal investigations or other unrelated litigation regarding SL Mining.
It could be recalled that in September 2019, SL Mining was forced to put the mine into Care and Maintenance due to the abrupt and unlawful restrictions on iron ore exports starting on 3 July 2019, and production at the Marampa mine ceased following other subsequent actions taken by the Government of Sierra Leone, culminating in the purported cancellation of SL Mining’s mining license on 7 October 2019.
The company insisted that the purported cancellation was unlawful and invalid and was contrary to the amended Order of the Emergency Arbitrator officiating in the ICC arbitration between SL Mining and the Government of Sierra Leone.