By Juliana Vandy, Strategic Communications Unit, MIC
The Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources in collaboration with other line ministries and agencies has executed an integrated task force raid on illicit foreign miners in four mining communities in Kono and Tonkolili districts.
The raid which was conducted on 17th March 2021 was informed by intelligence gathered by the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources following increasing concerns over illegal mining being carried out mostly by unregistered foreign nationals.
According to David Ngaiteh Kamara, Team Lead from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Integrated Task Force on Illicit Mining consists of personnel from the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Mines and their responsible agencies, and MDAs such as the Police, Immigration Department, Office of National Security (ONS), Labour and Information, with the aim of mitigating the anomaly nationwide.
He said that the influx of foreign nationals into the country to engage in illicit mining is criminal which has become an issue of security and also raised health concerns among the populace.
He recalled that recently in the House of Parliament a lawmaker raised similar concern particularly citing the pollution of water along Tonkolili and Kono districts which filters down to other districts as a result of the chemicals and heavy machineries used in waters by foreign miners.
He furthered that the raid was not only to stop the illegal foreign miners but to also send a strong signal to foreigners that it is no longer business as usual where people come into Sierra Leone illegally and start businesses such as mining on the wrong footing.
He noted that the Sierra Leone Mines and Minerals Act 2009 and its regulations clearly stipulate that artisanal mining and related activities are restricted to Sierra Leoneans.
He reiterated that government is putting a stop to illegal mining by foreigners mainly because the people of Sierra Leone are not benefiting nor is government receiving any revenue from such activities.
He urged all foreigners who intend to mine in Sierra Leone to do so through the appropriate channels by acquiring all required licenses and permit for their operations in order to avoid further embarrassment.
The Regional Commander North-East, AIG Sahr Yomba Senesie, the head of illegal mining operations for Kono district, described the raid as timely, saying the joint operation with the ONS and the Ministry of Internal Affairs is essential to ensuring that issues of security are addressed across the country.
He disclosed that they have eleven suspects in their custody helping with investigations into the just concluded raid including three Indian nationals, some Ghanaians and few Sierra Leoneans for various crimes.
Properties such as dredge machineries were also seized in both districts.
The hot spots included Nyama-Kono in Sewafe and Fandayhun in Kono district and two other communities in Tonkolili district.