Can diamonds be a curse forever? Newsletter from NMJD in Sierra LeonePublished by MAC on 2001-05-01
The decision by the Sierra Leone government to allow the British ex-mercenary outit Diamond Works/ Branch Energy back into the country to exploit the Koidu diamond field (see Kimberlite Mining Threatens Peace and Security in Kono, Sierra Leone) has aroused widespread anger and dismay. Even the World Bank cannot support the current project.
The latest newsletter of the country's National Movement for Justice and Development sets out the background and current situation in detail.
Can diamonds be a curse forever?
EDITORIAL (Newsletter of the National Movement for Justice and Development, Sierra Leone, March 1994)
THE FIRST DIAMOND was discovered in Sierra Leone in 1930. And since then diamonds have proven to be the nation's greatest asset until the early 1970's when they slumped into a liability for the country. In fact, some people see diamonds, and rightly so, as a big curse to the people of Sierra Leone. This school of thought argues that diamonds are not only at the heart of our current misery, but are also central to the economy of the 11-year brutal civil conflict which plundered and ravaged every part of the country.
THE QUESTION IS why should diamonds be a curse to Sierra Leone, and not a blessing as is the case in countries like Botswana, Namibia and South Africa? This question should continuously exercise the minds of every true and patriotic Sierra Leonean as long as the status quo exists.
Ordinarily, the problems denying Sierra Leoneans maximum benefit from their God-given wealth are not far fetched: corruption, lack of transparency and accountability, corporate irresponsibility, smuggling, foreign domination of the industry and non-compliance with mining policies, among many others. The root causes of the above can partly be traced to the fact that those who are charged with the responsibility of enforcing policies are ill-equipped, poorly motivated and therefore can easily be manipulated and corrupted by big corporate entities and the very politicians who have a moral obligation and a constitutional responsibility to make sure that their people get the best of what is theirs at all times.
THE LONG YEARS of exclusion of indigenes from the decision-making process has also negatively impacted on the overall performance of the industry. The war may be over, and combating the scourge of conflict diamonds may have also seen significant progress. But the destabilizing potentials of unregulated diamond mining are still looming. The challenge confronting us as a nation should therefore be how to address these problems so that diamond mining will not only be done with a human face, but also in the best interest of all Sierra Leoneans. In this way, we will save ourselves the indignities of having to flee our homes and natural environments to seek safe havens.
IT IS IN this light that the Campaign for Just Mining (CJM) has once again taken the lead in educating and sensitizing mining communities and the wider Sierra Leonean society about the workings/operations of the diamond industry with particular reference to Koidu Holdings Limited, which commenced blasting of the Koidu Kimberlite Pipe on 30 October 2003. The overall objective is to promote transparency and accountability in the industry, promote people's participation and improvement in the living standards of people in especially mining communities.
THIS EDITION OF the Network is therefore focused on operations of the Koidu Kimberlite Project, which has recently become under the spotlight due to the mounting controversies surrounding its operations. The issues addressed here are looked at from different angles (legal, development, human rights, etc) so that the reader can make informed opinion and meaningful contribution to the raging debate on the operations of Koidu Holdings Limited.
Human Rights, Mining and the People of Kono
After the First and Second World Wars, the international community and the big world powers came to realize that human rights violations and abuses were in a very high proportion. They therefore resolved that something had to be done in order to stop or minimize these violations. This resolve, coupled with other considerations, ultimately led to the formation of the United Nations Organization in 1945.
by Abass Kamara
In its preamble, the United Nations Charter states:" We the peoples of the United Nations, Determined.. To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights in the dignity and worth of the human person."
These words actually emphasize that one of the purposes for which the organisation was formed was to achieve dignity and worth of the human person.
Today, the concept of human rights could be viewed from three main stages. The first or early stage came about in the course of the French and American Revolutions. In these two revolutions were attached the rights of humanity.
The second stage as already stated, came about as a result of the First and Second World Wars. The end of these wars ushered in a period of conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This in effect marked the recognition and beginning of the battle against human rights violations.
The third stage is the enforcement of these rights and the penalties attached to them. This could be seen in the various tribunals carried out in various parts of the world e.g. the Nuremberg tribunal of Nazi Germany, the Harusha tribunal in Tanzania, the Special court in Sierra Leone etc are all set up as a result of human rights violations meted out, especially, on innocent civilians.
In Sierra Leone, as in other parts of the world, the recognition and protection of these fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual are embedded in chapter three of the 1991 constitution and other areas of the laws of Sierra Leone. Such rights include freedom of movement, protection from inhuman treatment, protection from deprivation of property, protection for privacy of home and other property etc.
In the diamondiferous area of Kono, eastern Sierra Leone, there is a great deal of human rights violations, particularly within and around the mining areas. Here are some of the problems, or rather violations, experienced by the local communities living in these areas:
- The local inhabitants are constantly being dislodged at irregular intervals as a result of the blasting carried out by the company, thereby, leaving them with no peace.
- The health condition of the local inhabitants is seriously affected as a result of the noise, pollution and other activities carried out by the company.
- The local community is not properly/sufficiently informed about the impact of these mining activities on them and on their environment. No alternative plans were in fact made to relocate them. They are completely ignorant of any agreement made between the company and the government.
- As a result of the above, there has been serious confusion between the local inhabitants and the company, resulting to a court action.
- The local community never made its input on the EIA and also never gave its approval of it. It was only recently, in the last week of January 2004 that the people came to know about it.
- The buildings of the local community were destroyed and the people sometimes suffer physical injuries.
All the points mentioned above are actual violations of basic human rights. Let us examine briefly some of the principal functions and legal responsibilities of the state. Section 6 (2) (b) of the 1991 constitution clearly states that for the purpose of promoting national integration and unity the state shall "secure full rights of residence for every citizen in all parts of the state." Section 7(1) (d) 1991 constitution requires the state to "ensure that government shall always give priority and encouragement to Sierra Leoneans to participate in all spheres of the economy."
Section 4(2) of the Environment Protection Act 2000, states that it is the function of the National Environmental Protection Board to "investigate any activity, occurrence or transaction which it considers is likely to have or result in harmful consequences to the environment and advise on measures necessary to prevent or minimize such consequences."
Section 19(1) of the same Act states that "the Director shall, after receiving an Environment Impact Assessment, circulate it to professional bodies or associations, government ministries and non-governmental organisations for their comments."
In all that has been stated above there is either very little or nothing done at all.
Let us also consider the responsibilities, rights and duties of mining companies - local or foreign. By virtue of the Mines and Minerals Decree 1994, a company is required to submit an Environment Impact Assessment to the Minister of Mines before mining could start. The mining company should therefore make sure that it works strictly by that document.
Section 14, Cap 249 of the Laws of Sierra Leone states that the Memorandum and the Articles, if any, shall be delivered to the Registrar and he shall retain and register them. Section 20, Cap. 249 states that "a company may, by special resolution and with the approval of the registrar, signified in writing, change its name."
The fact of the matter is that some of these mining companies never observed these laws and their actions most often than not, always have adverse effects on both the environment and the people living in their areas of operations.
It is therefore the rights and responsibilities of the affected people whose basic human rights have been violated to stand up and defend them. After all, it is their constitutional right to "make positive and useful contributions to the advancement, progress and well-being of the community" Section 13(f) of the 1991 constitution.
It is also their right to "participate in and defend all democratic processes and practices." Section 13 (1) of the 1991 constitution. Section 20 (1) of the 1991 constitution makes provision for protection from deprivation of property. But what are the people doing? Are they capacitated enough to defend their rights?
The way forward is simple. All that the government needs to do when problems of this nature arise is to exercise section 26(1) of the Environment Protection Act 2000, which gives it the power to cancel licenses, suspend or impose additional or modified conditions for the license. As for the affected local communities they have the option to either sue the government or the mining company to court. They could make claims against the government by virtue of the Protection of Rights clause - section 3, cap 23 of the constitution of Sierra Leone.
However, this is yet to be seen. But the question according to the interpretation section of a bill entitled: The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Act 2004" states that "human rights includes the rights relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual protected or guaranteed by the Constitution or embodied in the international conventions, treaties and other agreements to which Sierra Leone is a party."
Where and when there is a violation of these rights the person so affected could invoke section 11 of this document which states: "it shall be lawful for the commission in its report on an investigation, to recommend the payment of compensation for victims of human rights violations, their families or legal representatives and may also award costs in appropriate cases."
(Abass Kamara is the Research and Legal Adviser of NMJD)
Press Statement - Genesis of the Koidu Holdings Crisis
Kimberlite Mining Threatens Peace and Security in Kono - The government must regulate corporate mining now.
The Campaign for Just Mining, a coalition of civil society organizations spearheaded by the Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), working on mining, human rights and environmental issues has found out that Koidu Holdings Limited (formerly Branch Energy) has commenced blasting of the Koidu Kimberlite pipe even before the completion of the Environmental Impact Assessment. This does not only negate the Mines and Minerals Act of 1994, the Environment Protection Act of 2000 and the set standards of the World Bank, but also abrogates the fundamental rights of people in the affected communities. This could be a potent factor to derail and undermine peace and security, and ultimately national development.
This exercise (blasting) which is carried out every week has adversely affected the day-to-day activities of the people: schools and businesses in the environs of the Koidu Kimberlite pipe are completely disrupted each time blast9ng is going on, residents are forced to flee their homes for safety resulting in the loss of personal effects. Over and above all, one such blasting had earlier caused damage on one building and the shock caused by reverberating sound of blasting has far reaching health implications on the people.
Also, the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) for households directly affected by the blasting has so far proved to be a farce. Since the commencement of the programme, only ten sub-standard, poorly constructed and incomplete houses have been built for the affected communities with no basic facilities. As a protest to the above inhuman treatment, the people have refused to relocate.
Furthermore, the method which the consultants for the Koidu Holdings Limited used in carrying out its operations including the Environmental Impact Assessment is questionable since most of the key stakeholders were not only excluded, but some were harassed and embarrassed resulting in a court case. By all standards, Environmental Impact Assessments should be participatory with all stakeholders making their inputs so as to ensure a transparent and accountable process. But this procedure was not followed by the Koidu Holdings Limited. In fact, it is most disturbing to learn that even the Kono Peace Diamond Alliance that has a critical role to play in all of this was completely excluded from the process and has never accessed the report.
With all these negative developments, the Campaign for Just Mining has some serious doubts as to whether Koidu Holdings Limited is willing and committed to the Peace, Security and Development of Kono as a member of the Peace Diamond Alliance as well as subscribe to the new international campaign, which calls on corporate mining entities to ensure corporate social responsibility.
Therefore, since the Government of Sierra Leone has a constitutional responsibility and moral obligation to protect and promote the interests of the citizenry, the Campaign for Just Mining is calling on the appropriate government ministries and departments to use existing legislations as a tool to immediately stamp out these unproductive and inimical practices to avert a looming crisis of high proportion.
Dated January 21, 2004
For more information, please contact Network Movement for Justice and Development, 8 King Harman Road, Freetown, Telephone Numbers: 223378/229937.
Editor's Note: The press statement was widely published in local newspapers and radio stations. This was followed by a letter addressed to the Ministers of Mines and Mineral Resources and Lands, Housing and the Environment to specifically draw their attention to the issues raised in the release. Copies of the letter were sent to key stakeholders in the industry, including CEMMATS and Koidu Holdings Limited. The reaction of both government and Koidu Holdings was very hostile and intimidatory.
Listen and heed the just demands of the poor affected communities
Increasing investment in extractive industries has had an immense negative impact on livelihoods in local communities in Sierra Leone. Our government over the years has proven to have little capacity to prevent often extensive, negative consequences to human health, livelihoods and sustainability of ecosystems. Mining projects have led to rampant deforestation, frequently pushing local indigenous people and other rural communities off their land. Extractive industries may have the potential to promote economic growth and poverty alleviation, but only if they are properly regulated. Comprehensive and enforceable pro-poor regulations are necessary in order to control the negative social and environmental impacts of these industries, and to guarantee equitable distribution of benefits to impacted areas. How can this sector contribute to poverty alleviation for the majority of Sierra Leoneans when it concentrates wealth in the hands of a few, especially foreigners, displaces people from their lands and degrades the resources upon which many poor people depend?
by Abu A. Brima National Coordinator, NMJD
In the recent past, before the outbreak of the war, the diamond industry was no longer coordinated or controlled putting at risk the local communities when confronted with foreigners (Lebanese and other West African Nationals) and government officials as well as local authorities. During the civil war, the warring factions took advantage of this chaos to wreck havoc on the land and people of the district, effectively using resources generated from this to bankroll their war machinery. In 2000, at a national consultative conference on mining organized by Network Movement for Justice and Development under the Campaign for Just Mining in Sierra Leone, it was recommended that the mining be put on hold for the next five years till a re-organization, re-orientation is done leading to a pro- poor and development policy on mining. Did anyone listen? It is anyone's guess as can be read from the following pages.
Following the official declaration of the end of the war in January 2002, the government considered the maximum exploitation of the mineral (diamond) resources as a major source for ushering the country again on the path to economic recovery. Then pouring like rain many diamond-mining companies came to Kono, some as new entities, others returning to restart their old businesses they abandoned during the war years. Among the old businesses is the 25-year 4.0 Sq.Km. (2.5. Sq. Miles) Koidu Kimberlite Project Mining Lease Agreement (Decree No.12) of 1995 granted to Branch Energy (SA) Ltd. A subsidiary of Diamond Works within the Tankoro Chiefdom in Koidu Township covering settlements/communities like Sokogbe, Saquee and Swarray towns. These rich Kimberlite deposits at Koidu are estimated to be worth more than US$2 billion.
In June 2002, Branch Energy (SA) Ltd entered into a joint venture agreement with Magma Diamond Resources Ltd. In September of the same year, the two companies successfully concluded negotiations and reached agreement on the ownership and operations of the Koidu Diamond Project, which saw the establishment of (under the terms of the agreement) a special purpose company now known as "Koidu Holdings Ltd." This new creation has since its inception and start of operations been enjoying a lot of favour and support from the highest quarters. It is a key member of the USAID-backed/supported Peace Diamond Alliance (PDA); it got His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone to urge the people of Kono to cooperate with the Company (a subtle way of intimidating the people) at the launching of the PDA in August 2003, and at the opening of the Motema Police Station in February this year.
The Company started blasting for Kimberlite with impunity way back in October without due observance of the environmental laws of the land; uses the radio in Kono to announce the illegal removal/dislocation of the community people before blasting but never reporting the negative outcomes of the blasting; got the government to unlawfully imprison some affected community leaders for several months for alleged disruption of the work of the company; got the police in Kono to force NMJD and Campaign for Just Mining to obtain "Police Clearance" before conducting a community sensitization meeting (Has Kono become a police state now?); the authorities never listen to the cries of the community people and civil society for the unlawful and irresponsible manner in which the mining operations are being conducted. Whatever is bringing KHL so much favours and support is a matter that deserves investigation. But let us start to take a quick look at the impact of the Kimberlite Mining Project so far if we are to understand the long- term implications of this project for Kono and Sierra Leone
affected communities The local communities of Sokogbeh, Saquee and Swarray Towns comprising about 5,000 inhabitants told us during our two days consultation with them in February this year that they consider this Kimberlite mining as one of the greatest threats facing the land, their territories and resources they depend on and ultimately, their existence.
- communities no longer have access to traditional bushes/forests to do their farming/gardening; an activity they had depended on for cash income and consumption;
- traditional small-scale miners had been displaced without the provision of alternative income or compensation;
- sacred sites and burial grounds have been desecrated, and community elders complained about a growing disregard of traditional norms and values;
- well-functioning communities are beginning to break down and social integrity eroding, breeding internal conflicts within communities
- communities no longer have access to the fish and potable water formerly freely available in rivers.
- existing water wells in the communities are fast drying up leaving the people to trek to long distances for water.
Human rights abuses
There are many reports of company personnel intimidating the people and forcing them out of their houses/homes when blasting times are announced. The human rights violations that surfaced during the consultation process included cases where:
- inadequate respect is paid to community land rights and there was no effective protection for traditional livelihoods and cultures;
- people are forced to abandon their homes and food to flee the flying stones during blasting;
- cultural rights are disregarded, such as the desecration of ancestral burial grounds and other sites considered sacred by local people;
- violent means have been used by the police against local community leaders when they question the project for not keeping to its promises. This led to their arrests and unlawful detention for several months;
- local communities are discouraged or hampered from seeking legal advice and help from concerned NGOs;
- people were imprisoned without trial for up to six months;
- communities live in constant fear of the threat of possible violent eviction, of using land for any economic activity, of the impacts of pollution, and of having community school buildings demolished;
- at times of blasting schools are closed down and businesses are made to stop for as long as the blasting goes on as determined by the company without negotiation or due respect for the rights of the people.
Degradation of the environment and natural resources
With the absence of the enforcement of environmental regulations and laws, and the seeming unwillingness of government to monitor what is going on, the Kimberlite Mining operations are creating serious environmental damage to their surroundings. This has resulted in a loss of livelihood or a loss of access to resources such as clean water, fresh fruits and forest/bush meats and herbs.
Numerous other examples of environmental degradation were reported;
- access to clean water has reduced;
- fishing or other community hunting and palm wine tapping activities terminated;
- respiratory problems due to dust and other health problems are becoming evident;
- any portions of land are being eroded leaving some communities without homes and others without valuable farmland;
- the number of vehicles on roads increased, often degrading existing transportation infrastructure. The non-stop use of these heavy vehicles cause sleepless and restless nights, further exacerbating the already weak, poor health conditions of especially the old, sick, pregnant women, sucking mothers and their babies.
Lack of consultation Information and reports received by NMJD reveal that the local communities in question do not have the capacity or the institutions to negotiate effectively with a corporate entity. To compound these problems, consultations done were only as a formality to fulfill legal obligations or the World Bank Group (MIGA) procedures.
The following problems were recorded relating to the consultation process to develop the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
- in the consultation process, the relevant documents that should be disclosed and provided to communities were not physically accessible or made available
- affected communities were not informed about their rights or their entitlement to comment on the various project documents;
- people who questioned the project were often ignored, others threatened, or harassed;
- consultations were often not properly announced, only selected people or groups were invited;
- the processes of consultation were not monitored by government;
- the involvement of women is almost absent and children completely absent;
- the EIA, since its release in late January 2004 in Sierra Leone and to MIGA in October last year, has not been made available at public places or in the local communities. It has neither been translated into the language of the local people nor any discussions held on it;
- even the little inappropriate consultations that were done were only with the men, and failing to take account of the women's perspectives, thereby disenfranchising the local women, undermining their traditional roles and responsibilities, and increasing gender inequalities within the community. As a result, women will be largely denied access to the benefits from the mining activity, while at the same time they bear the burden of the negative impacts, including alcohol-related problems and marriage breakdowns.
Lack of any credible grievance mechanisms
Due to the lack of any credible grievance mechanisms for communities, struggles against human rights violations go on without any resolution. At the moment the government and company have not even bothered to discuss or provide compensation for these violations - compensation to communities for lands or resources, houses and even for the environmental damage they have created. It is sad that communities are not able to seek recourse for the environmental, social, and human rights violations inflicted by the company.
Lack of perceived benefits
Local communities and NGOs working with them have raised the issue of the lack of perceived benefits to the local communities. These communities whose lands are being used for this mining projects are living without electricity, and with very inadequate health clinic, schools, and very bad roads.
Beyond failing to provide benefits for local communities, this mining project has the potential to be instrumental in creating many social and economic problems including: squatters, alcohol-related violence, criminal activities, marriage breakdowns, and an increased number of single motherhoods
Labour, labour standards and poverty alleviation It is sad to note that the communities complain bitterly about the next to non - employment of the children and able bodies of the affected communities often on the grounds that their parents are opposed to the mining project. Instead, those employed are mostly from far away locations, especially outside Kono district. The employment benefit to the people of Kono is yet to be enhanced
As pointed out in a 2001 World Bank Group publication; "The principles embedded in the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Core Labor Standards can contribute to the World Bank's development mission. . . .[They] can contribute to economic growth and reduce workplace risks faced by the poor."
The International Labour Conference of 1998 drafted and adopted the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. This Declaration, adopted by the ILO's highest decision-making body, makes observance of certain fundamental labor rights an obligation for all 177 ILO member countries arising from the very fact of their membership. Even if they have not ratified the conventions in question, all member states must provide regular reports to the ILO on how the specified rights are observed in the country. These rights, generally known as the Core Labor Standards (CLS), cover four areas of fundamental rights and are defined in eight ILO Conventions, out of a total of 185:
- elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor (C. 29 and C. 105);
- abolition and effective elimination of child labor (C. 138 and C. 182);
- elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (C. 100 and C. 111); and
- freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining (C. 87 and C. 98). Investigation into KHL compliance with these Core Labour Standards will be required.
What forms the underlying factor that continues to plague the work of KHL and draw attention to civil society scrutiny of it is the disregard, respect and non- recognition of the rights of the local communities and indigenous people. And to the government of Sierra Leone I can only say that poverty alleviation and economic growth cannot be envisaged without protection of land and resources rights. The economic base that land provides needs to be accompanied by cognition of indigenous peoples' own political and legal institutions, cultural traditions and social organizations. Land and culture, development, spiritual values and knowledge are all one. To fail to recognize one is to fail on all.
In conclusion I can only echo what the recently published World Bank Extractive Industries Review Report observes; that " Failure to recognize and respect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities undermines efforts to alleviate indigenous peoples' poverty and to achieve sustainable development". This is the path to justice, sustainable peace and security.
Voices of Affected Kono Communities
The blasting affects our normal school work and also our school buildings; now there are cracks all over the place. School work is always brought to abrupt halts whenever blasting is in progress. Or schools are moved from their traditional sites as long as the blasting lasts. Before now, the company would notify the schools about the blasting time through letters and the local radio station. But this is no longer the case; they now take us unawares. We have not heard any discussions with the company with regards relocating the schools, and now the rains are just around the corner.
- Mrs. Betty Bassie
Senior Teacher United Methodist Church Girls School, Koidu
We really want to ask government to tell us whether they've sent Branch Energy to Kono to disrupt our learning, destroy our schools and houses and incapacitate our parents. We also want to ask Branch Energy to tell us about what development plans they have for us in Kono because we have still not seen anything they have built or constructed since they came. It's just destruction all the way.
- Gladys Gbonda
Class 6 UMC Girls School
On Friday last week, a heavy stone fell just by me. I got shocked and collapsed. When Mr Sorbi, the Community Relocation Officer came, all he was interested in knowing was whether the stone hit me directly. In the end, he only gave me one litre of water that was not even cold. And that was the end of it; no treatment. I am still getting frequent shocks and have to drink peak milk every day. It is my relatives that are taking care of me. NDMC had worked in Kono for many years, but it was not like this.
- Mariama Conteh
(A nursing mother who became a victim when her baby was just one day old from Sokogbe community)
We are in the middle of a dilemma; we have not been relocated, we cannot put up new structures and we cannot plant anything in our backyards. How do these people expect us to live and take care of our families? There is a piece of bush in Sokogbe community that has some tree crops and fertile land. People used to fetch fuel wood and make vegetable gardens there, but now we cannot access it. The place where they want to relocate us is small with no land for gardening or recreation. How can they build houses/relocate people without consulting them or involving them at least in any of the activities? This is absolutely not right.
- Sahr Fea Sarquee
Sokogbe Affected Property Owners Association
Thus we feel our rights are been abrogated by the Koidu Holdings SA by its failure to implement the dictates of the Kimberlite Agreement and the report of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and utter silence of government over our sad state of affairs as residents of the lease concession affected by activities of the Koidu Holdings.
- Preamble to the Constitution of The Affected Property Owners Association.
It is apparent that whatever we say or do, Branch Energy is not going to say or do anything good for us. It is either because they enjoy the total patronage and support of government for all what they are doing, or they are just damn insensitive to our plight.
- Sia Gborie
UMC Girls School
Sometimes I am caught up in the middle of preparing food for my children, then we are asked to leave, which makes my children to go for hours without food.
- Memuna Boya (Mrs)
What the papers say
Insurers Abandon Koidu Holdings (Concord Times, March 26, 2004)
Weeks after sustained press attacks on Koidu Holdings' kimberlite mining methods in Kono spearheaded by Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), the company's risk insurers, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), have suspended their involvement with the Kimberlite mining project.
A jubilant environmental activist told Concord Times that the insurers, an affiliate of the World Bank, decided to suspend all collaboration with Koidu Holdings mining activities in Kono until certain key issues raised by environmentalists and stakeholders are properly addressed.
Sources close to NMJD confirmed that they have raised a number of issues relating to the activities of Koidu Holdings and some of these concerns have reached MIGA, who in turn took the decision to suspend business with Koidu Holdings. Independent sources reveal that the main issues include: the evacuation and relocation of residents within the 200m blasting zone of the rocks before the environmental impact assessment, no consultation with those affected by mining activities and the destructive methods employed by the company.
The poor relationship between community and the company is being cited as another serious concern.
Investigations by Concord Times paint a very ugly picture about the company's activities as each time Koidu Holdings is about to commence blasting, residents in the blasting zone are hurriedly asked to leave their homes until such a time when the blasting is over.
Residents view this as 'irresponsible' in that it poses a great danger to the people in the blasting zone, as it is evident by the damage done to 12 homes so far. Apart from damage to houses dislodged by fragments, the loud noise and pollution pose a serious health hazard.
Meanwhile, senior managers of Koidu Holdings have dismissed concerns raised by NMJD and others as unsubstantiated.
Kimberlite Blast Lands 3 in Hospital
(Standard Times, March 16, 2004)
By Saidu Kamara
Three aging women in Sarquee Town, Kono district, are currently admitted at the Koidu Government Hospital following the blasting of Kimberlite deposits on March 1st 2004 by the resident kimberlite mining company, Koidu Holdings. The three women who were quickly revived after emergency treatment are Mammy Finnah Jentey, Penila Momoh and Kumba Satteh.
Reports say they stayed in their homes when the blasting occurred by the Koidu Holding, despite the warning notice carried out by the former South Africa mining company through the SLBS community radio station that everybody should be moved out of the houses until after the blast.
Due however to the age of the women and their physical inability to move quickly, they could not leave their homes even though others had done so.
According to one Mr Aiah Sensie, a member of the newly formed organization called the Affected Property Owners Association, based in Tankoro chiefdom, the blasting traumatized the women and made them suffer from associated medical problems like hyphenation, anxiety and lack of concentration or improper hearing.
In a related incident, Pa Kai David Mboma, Town Chief of Sarquee and chairman of the Affected Property Owners Association, three people and himself from the areas affected by the mining operations, Sarquee town, Sokogbeh, part of Swarray Town and Manjamadu were arrested and detained for ten on allegations of inciting youths in the areas against the operations of the mining company.
He said however that prior to the start of mining operations by Koidu Holdings, they were that they would only operate in full after they had completed the relocation of affected communities.
Pa Mboma said they were also promised development facilities such as the provision of electric power, schools, health centres, markets and good roads.
The chairman of the Association said their objective is to seek a peaceful and fair resolution of the concerns of residents affected by activities of the Koidu Kimberlite project.
He said their intentions are peaceful and have no desire to seek the disruption of the company's operations.
MINISTER CONDEMNS HOUSING SCHEME
(The New Citizen Tuesday 6th April 2004, Volume 8 No. 53)
By Sylvester T. Bangah
Agriculture and Food security Minister cum Sierra Leone Peoples Party Chairman, Kono District, Dr Sama Mondeh, has vehemently condemned the newly constructed houses in Manjama Area, Kono District.
The newly constructed houses are meant to relocate and house local residents affected by the blasting operations of Koidu Holdings.
Speaking to the New Citizens in Kono recently the Minister said, "I am here on a fact finding mission as we have received information in Freetown that the company has constructed sub-standard housing facilities for the people. The three bedroom houses are poorly constructed with only a single exit door. The building itself is too low and lacks adequate ventilation".
Dr. Mondeh further disclosed that the agreement between the company and government should be revisited as the poorly constructed structures we were not conducive for human habitation and therefore, unacceptable to the people.
"As SLPP Chairman for Kono District, I will not sit down complacently while Koidu Holdings is building substandard structures for our people. Koidu Holdings is generating a substantial sum of money which demands the company to construct better housing and offer other amenities for the people," the minister observed.
Aiah T. Pimbi, a Manjama Area resident, also lamented about the poorly constructed buildings adding that if a sudden fire accident should occur, it would be extremely difficult for in-habitants to evacuate the buildings. "Kono residents deserve more conducive buildings than the present ones offered by Koidu Holdings," he maintained.
"Everybody evacuates the area whenever blasting operations are to commence. But what bothers us most as parents is the disruption of school lessons as a result of the blasting operations of the mining company. Sometimes, classes are disrupted for as long as thirty minutes, which is a disincentive to psychological learning climate of the school children in the district. Koidu Holdings is only interested in exploiting the resources of the country and not helping the people," Tamba Sam, a local resident lamented.
In response to comments made by the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, including other stakeholders, Koidu Holdings Safety Officer, Rex Bonafa said, "the newly constructed buildings are more durable than the former buildings inhabited by the people which should be accepted."
Campaigners launch annual diamond review
The Campaign for Just Mining, a coalition of civil society organisations working on and advocating around issues of mining, human rights and the environment, has launched the first Diamond Industry Annual Review at the China Friendship House, Brookfields in Freetown on Thursday 18 March 2004. The groundbreaking event attracted a broad spectrum of civil society and the media. Conspicuously absent though, were government officials and other state functionaries.
The Annual Review is "an attempt to describe the country's most important asset within the context of its history and its potential. It describes the diamond industry as it is today - warts and all - and it outlines what needs to be done to convert diamonds from a liability to a tool for development".
This does not however preclude the Review from being critical of the way diamonds are being exploited and managed. The Review takes a critical look at a variety of fronts in the diamond industry. The purpose is not to chase "potential buyers and investors away from Sierra Leone". But rather, it aims at creating an open, fair and clean industry where diamonds are advertised as being not just free of conflict, but as genuine purveyors of positive development.
Since they were first discovered in the Gbogbora stream in the Nimikoro chiefdom of Kono District, Eastern Sierra Leone in 1930, diamonds have contributed tremendously to Sierra Leone's development, at least in the ensuing three to four decades after the discovery. But the boom suffered a dramatic set back and took a rapid down slide in the 1970s when the then Administration put policies in place that paved the way for their cronies to take centre stage in the diamond industry.
The Ombudsman, Mr Francis Gabiddon, graphically and bluntly hammered this home in his brief statement before he launched the Review. He emphatically noted that from the 1930s to 1970s, diamonds were a big blessing to the people of Sierra Leone because of the huge benefits they brought them in terms of good roads, hospitals, schools, provision of scholarships and bursaries, balance of payment, employment, etc. But he lamented over the rapid decline of fortunes in the diamond industry beginning in the late 1970s; he blamed this on bad policies, corruption, smuggling and poor monitoring and supervision.
"We never had all these problems when DIMINCO was here and our export figures were always good. But they were asked to go; and whether or not this was done with good intentions, the outcome was a disaster. Kono is today described by many as the Wild West; it is a free for all place," he said.
Mr Gabiddon therefore challenged civil society to take advantage of their hard- won democracy to bring back sanity, probity and accountability to the diamond industry. "Government is doing its bit, but it should also be the responsibility of civil society to check the wrong things going on in the industry because the problem is with them," he stressed.
Earlier, the National Coordinator of NMJD, Mr. Abu A. Brima, gave an overview of the Annual Diamond Review Project. The project, he said, is an initiative of the NGOs participating in the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. It is a three- year project beginning 2003. Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola are also carrying out reviews of their respective diamond industries.
In her opening remarks, chairperson for the occasion, Ms Helen Bash-Taqi, lauded the civil society for what she described as "venturing into an area that was once viewed as the exclusive domain of the government and its corporate partners". She however called on them to extend their activities to other sectors of the industry.
"I would also like to stress that our focus should not be limited to diamond mining. There is also the urgent need to direct our attention to Rutile mining with its devastating consequences not only on the environment but also on the livelihood of people," she said.
Key stakeholders in the diamond industry and civil society organisations made statements of support and solidarity.
The Review was produced by Partnership Africa Canada and NMJD
Hard sparkling, precious beauty
wondrous beyond imagination
then say you belong to the devils,
and that you brought wealth
but woe unto me and my land.
How many magnificent cities have you built?
look how my land bleeds, for your sake
unhealed wounds, with greedy knives
twisting into it everyday creating new cuts
must I laugh, must I cry for you?
See how my people are cheated,
and humiliated everyday for your sake
listen! A cry is heard
a pit has caved-in killing many youths
see the mourners, haggard and in rags
carrying everlasting poverty in their pitiful eyes
glisten stones, must I laugh, must I cry for you?
Hear! A heavy blast
it is for the twinkling stones, the earth shock
houses crack and crumble, there is a sudden cry
yonder lies a woman with baby strap to her back
and an old woman in a pool of blood
smashed and crushed by flying rocks
yet, we did not bemoan them
innocent victims of corporate colonization and reckless exploitation
Gem stones, must I laugh, must I cry for you?
Saa Mathias Bendu (Mr. Saa Mathias Bendu is president of the Kono Students Union and a member of the Campaign for Just Mining).
Campaigners 'sensitise' kimberlite communities
Since Koidu Holdings Limited commenced blasting of the Koidu Kimberlite Pipe on October 30 last year, the Campaign for Just Mining has organized a series of education and sensitization workshops as well as wide ranging consultations with affected communities in Tankoro Chiefdom, Kono district. The main purpose of these exercises was to create a forum where the people could discuss issues around diamond mining with a view to finding out whether it was done in the best interest of both the people and government, with special reference to the Koidu Kimberlite Project.
Discussions at these meetings centred around the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) carried out by Koidu Holdings Limited, Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) and the agreement which the Koidu Holdings signed with the government of Sierra Leone in 1995 under the Mines and Minerals Decree of 1994.
The meetings looked at both the positive and negative impacts of the Kimberlite mining in Kono. On the negative side, there was going to be involuntary population movement, influx of people leading to social problems, loss of soil resources, air pollution, noise pollution, contamination of ground water, reduction in surface water quality and loss of biodiversity, among others
However, Kimberlite mining is not all a tale of doom and gloom; there are the prospects of support to community development projects, employment opportunities and increase in revenue collection through taxes and other financial obligations.
But all of these positive impacts could not be realized unless disturbance to the natural environment and lifestyles were minimized and the capacity of the land returned to that which existed prior to the start of operations. The people expressed concern over whether Koidu Holdings would scrupulously adhere to established standards since their participation in the whole process was very minimal.
Another aspect of the EIA discussed by affected communities was the Resettlement Action Plan and the Public Disclosure of the report. Speaker after speaker asserted that even though the EIA document should have been made available to the affected communities prior to full-scale mining operations, that was not done by Koidu Holdings. The affected communities saw this as a gross abrogation of the spirit and letter of Public Disclosure of the EIA report.
The National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) of Captain Valentine Strasser negotiated and signed a 25-year lease with Branch Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Diamonds Works, for open cast mining of Kimberlite in the Kono District. The agreement, which was ratified and came into effect the same year, came about by virtue of section 59 of the Mines and Minerals Decree 1994.
The different minerals identified in the agreement were diamond, gold and associated minerals. The agreement conspicuously fails to specify the associated minerals and there is no clause in the agreement that gives the people the authority to demand to know what these associated minerals are, especially in the light of the Confidentiality and Disclosure clause.
Participants also discussed the confidentiality and disclosure clause which states that all data, information and reports relating to the mining lease area or to the mining operations owned by or in possession of the lessee shall be treated as confidential by each of the parties. This leaves the people with no other option but to guess and speculate on issues they are supposed to be an integral part of. The agreement, however, places an obligation on the lessee to at all times perform his duties, obligations and work in the mining lease area with all due professional diligence and in accordance with the best and safest practices. To many, this appears to be confusing, contradictory and ambiguous.
What came out clearly throughout the sessions was that the people in the affected communities knew very little about Koidu Holdings Limited, a clear testimony to the failure of the company to engage the affected communities and give them the necessary information. About 99 percent of Kono indigenes, including traditional leaders who are custodians of the affected land, were still not aware of the change from Branch Energy to Koidu Holdings even though the company had started full operations. In fact, all what they knew about Koidu Holdings was that it was Branch Energy, widely known and acclaimed by many for "bankrolling" the mercenary outfit Executives Outcomes - that redeemed Kono from the iron and destructive grip of the Revolutionary United Front rebels in less than two weeks. Little did they know that the government of Sierra Leone was in agreement with Branch Energy to pay US$1.5 million every month for the services of the Executive Outcomes. Many people see the lack of correct information about Koidu Holdings as the genesis of the rancour and current bad blood between the company and the affected communities.