• November 3, 2023


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In what is looking like a “house of cards” scenario, the Government has come under pressure to review its position with respect to the Cabinet decision taken against ARISE INTEGRATED INDUSTRIAL PLATFORMS, a Dubai based company over the award of a Rail and Ports Lease agreement to operate and expand the 200km Pepel Rail and Port which transfers iron ore from the hinterland to the sea port in the Northern Province of Port Loko and Tonkolili Districts.

The decision by the Government of Sierra Leone to unilaterally abrogate the contract with ARISE IIP and offer it to China Kingho, a Company that was a previous beneficiary of this same contract, has attracted widespread condemnation and derision by major players in the mining sector and the communities affected by the rail and port infrastructure. Local communities have seen an increase in ground rents and other revenues from mining activities since the arrival of ARISE IIP, a fact they attribute to the fair and transparent pricing policies of the company towards the people on whose land they operate while China Kingho has always been cited for bad management and human rights abuse amongst their workforce.

Many in the sector have expressed concern that there would be antitrust issues and/or predatory practices by China Kingho to curtail growth in the mining sector if they were seen to be exercising monopoly control over the rail and port services, thus frustrating other mining companies from using or expanding their use of the rail and port services in that region. It has been observed that China Kingho have not been a fair layer within the sector since their entry to the industry, and they stand accused of ripping off over $40 million annually from the Sierra Leone economy through under declaration of export loads etc. Total control of the rail and ports by China Kingho would therefore lead to more adverse control and extensive powers to circumvent monitoring of traffic by Government over export shipments from Pepel.

The Minister of Mines has also been the subject of query since this decision was taken, to the point that he has forced to publish his resume to demonstrate his wide experience in the mining sector in Ukraine since 1992 where he qualified with his first Masters in Geology,  the UK in 2001 where he gained his second Masters in Environmental & Earth Resources and Liberia in 2014 where he worked with the Ebola Response team at UNMEER and UNOPS.

In addition to his private sector operations in Sierra Leone prior to joining the NMA as Geo-data Information Manager in 2013 the Minister has been put under pressure to demonstrate that he was the right man for the job when appointed by President Bio, with the right technical credentials as a trained and qualified Geologist and remote data management for mineral deposits identification but his present involvement in what is now seen as a very questionable administrative decision has exposed him as a man without the necessary administrative prowess to manage high level negotiation on the economics of mining industry infrastructure. Senior technical personnel who have worked across the various sections in the Ministry of Mines have queried the Minister’s understanding of the implications of this decision in private, some pointing to the possibility that a repeat of some grave errors that were made on the Gerald Mining agreement to be emerging in this case as well and the experience is that such would be a serious loss for Government to have to suffer another punishing reparations award to ARISE IIP if this matter is not quickly resolved.

The Government’s position was not assisted when the Attorney General and Minister of Justice gave a briefing last week concerning this issue and stopped short of admitting that mistakes have been made in the handling of this matter.  The Minister was reported as stating that the contract ended itself because ARISE IIP avoided making any objections on aspects relating to certain clauses until the tome allocated to make such objections or observations elapsed. In a radical departure from this position, ARISE IIP’s legal firm in the UK has emphatically expressed their opinion that the Justice Minister’s advice was fundamentally flawed and that the legal merits as they presently stand puts Sierra Leone at a disadvantage if the Government were to rely on those statements made by the Attorney General as their basis for abrogating the contract with ARISE IIP.

Titus Boye-Thompson, Prampram Ghana

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