The much talked about persistent raids on illicit miners in gold and diamond mining communities in the east and northern regions of the country are being widely lauded by certain sections of the public, as legitimate moves aimed at ending illegal mining are largely being undertaken by foreigners in the name of foreign investments.
Recent reports of clampdown on Ghanaian gold and diamond miners in Baama, Kenema district, east of the country is not new in the mining industry at all. Illegal foreign miners are everywhere in Sierra Leone, unlawfully extracting the country’s mineral resources through whichever means at their disposal, and are hardly punctuated. They are extracting the country’s mineral resources with impunity, mostly using some government workers’ influences as well as the backing of traditional leaders as long as they are given some amount of tokens, even where the line ministry has Mines Monitors (MM).
Do they want to tell us and the whole country that they were not aware of illicit mining activities that were going on in Baama and Panpana River? Of course they were well aware of them, their activities in those areas and other parts of the country as illegal and criminal miners do not work in isolation but with the fullest acknowledgment of government agencies that are expected to halt such lawless activities.
Forum can authoritatively report that most of the unlawful diamond and gold mining activities being undertaken in Tonkolili, Koinadugu, Kono, Kenema, Bo, Pujehun, Tongo, Boajibu, Palima, and other areas in the country are carried out in collaboration with workers of the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, through the various regional and district Mines Monitoring Officers. So it is a joint syndicate that needs to be investigated by the appropriate government authorities.
As part of decentralization patterns, the Immigration Department is replicated in all district and regional headquarters to track illegal immigrants in the country. Similarly so, there are also MM structures right across the board, but like the Immigration officers, the MM officers also lack effective supervision; they neither attempt to intercept any illicit mining activity, nor do they search for illegal immigrants. The more reasons there are so many illegal immigrants everywhere in Sierra Leone, doing all sorts of criminal businesses including mining in the name of foreign investments at the detriment of the country and the very communities they exploit.
It is an open secret that foreigners are busy exploiting Sierra Leone’s mineral sector, as they keep mining gold, diamond and other precious minerals the government of Sierra Leone should be making huge financial and economic gains from for the general wellbeing of the people.
This is not our expectations, that there has been illegal extraction of the country’s mineral wealth without any benefits to the communities and the people of Sierra Leone.
Moreover, acts of illegitimate mining have existed in Sierra Leone for ages without strong actions from the authorities against defaulters. Then the syndicate continues unabated.
The public keep wondering as to why it is only now government through the line Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources is pushing with heavily armed personnel of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces and the Operational Support Division to bring such unlawful trade to a permanent end, while illicit miners continue to protect their stay in the country under whichever immigrant conditions they could maintain themselves.
Illegal mining in the country is one key issue government is battling with, while the burning issue of the invasion of illegal immigrants in Sierra Leone continues unhalted simply because of the country’s porous borders and security lapses. This remains seriously challenging under the canopies of the leaderships of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Department of Immigration, the SLP, RSLAF, among hosts of government security agencies charged with the mandate of protecting the country from the inflow of illegal immigrants.
This must stop now if we were to see our RSLAF, SLP, and their partner agencies legitimately executing their mandates as required by the laws of the land. For all we know is that illegal immigrants and criminal miners would never attempt to engage in or carry out their activities if some forms of compromises are not reached by those manning our borders and possible entering points. A new leaf must be turned now to allow Sierra Leone to be better if not in real ‘paopa’ terms but for the wellbeing of all Sierra Leoneans.
In conclusion, the line ministries and their complementing agencies are thus expected to up their games in firm readiness to be always handling their work for which they are being paid out of taxpayers’ monies, making sure that all entering points into Sierra Leone are well fortified from the penetration of illegal immigrants and by extension permanently curtail criminal mining activities in the country, before we start to name and shame their hosts.