By State House Communications Unit
FREETOWN, Wednesday 6 May, 2015 – President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma has todayofficially signalled the recommencement of Tonkolili Iron Ore operations by Shandong Iron and Steel Group which now has 100% ownership of the mines. He assured the company of government’s continued support at all stages of its operations.
Speaking during the ceremony at the Raddison Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel, President Koroma, who delivered a very people-centered statement, described the recommencement of mining operations by Shandong as a positive turning point in the country’s quest for economic development.
President Koroma further stated that the welfare of the people of Sierra Leone was paramount and reminded the Chinese company that although mining activities generate lots of revenue to government, they should also create jobs and utilize local materials and services. “We already have a Local Content Policy in place, and sections of our mining laws also require companies to give preference to Sierra Leoneans for employment, and to Sierra Leonean goods and services sector,” he said.
The president went on to encourage Shandong Iron and Steel Group to ensure Sierra Leonean youth benefit from employment opportunities in the company and emphasized the need to pay attention to provide the necessary training for Sierra Leoneans to acquire the skills and expertise to progress through the ranks.
In view of the communities in which the company operates, the president urged Shandong to be good corporate partners by promoting sustainable development and enhancing the general welfare of the people of Tonkolili and other areas of their operations.
He also urged the company to carry out their operations in a responsible and sustainable manner in accordance with approved environmental management programmes.
Touching on the issue that was at the heart of local businesses, the Head of State spoke passionately on the need for Shandong Iron and Steel Group to fully honour all outstanding payments, including liabilities to local suppliers and contractors. Amid thunderous applause, he then expressed appreciation for the patience and understanding demonstrated by the contractors over the period and urged that they continue to cooperate with Shandong.
Referring to the contributions of the Chinese Ambassador, President Koroma applauded Ambassador Zhao Yanbo for his tireless efforts in working with government to ensure that the Tonkolili project is revitalized. He also applauded the relentless efforts of the Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources and team for steering government through the labyrinth of technicalities and negotiations culminating intotoday’s event.
Speaking earlier, Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray said the recommencement of mining operations will create jobs for the people of Sierra Leone which in turn will contribute meaningfully to the country’s socio-economic development.
The Chinese Ambassador Zhao Yanbo said the Ebola epidemic is going to end soon and noted the imperative to shift focus on post Ebola recovery. He pointed out that the resumption of the Tonkolili project has come to this crucial time and will lead the recovery of Sierra Leone’s economy. “As a best friend of Sierra Leone, China will stand with the Sierra Leonean people and continously render it’s support to Sierra Leone’s rebuilding of its socio-economic development,” he assured.
Vice Chairman of Shandong Iron and Steel Group Mr. Cui said that the company will adhere to the core values of “advance together, innovate together and win together” in the operation of the project. He went further to state that in all their efforts and with the outstanding teams, excellent technology, scientific management and systematic planning, there is guarantee that the company will make huge contribution to the economic development of Sierra Leone.
Gibril Bangura, Vice Chairman of Shandong Tonkolili Iron Ore project, in his vote of thanks explained the challenges faced by African Minerals Limited amid the drastic drop in iron ore price in the world market and it’s impact on their operations. He expressed commitment that they will ensure the project is successful, progressive and will yield much needed dividend to the country.
Shandong Iron and Steel Group is one of the biggest players in the minerals sector in the world. The company originally had a 25% stake in African Minerals Limited and had invested over US $1.5 billion in the Tonkolili project since 2012.