Opening Statement by the Hon. Abdul Ignosi Koroma, Deputy Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources and Co-Chair, Extractive Sector Benchmarking Project on the Occasion of The Technical Assistance Workshop on the Alignment of the Sierra Leone Core Minerals Policy and the African Mining Vision held on December 16– 17, 2015 at the AU Conference Center, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Representative of the African Union Commission
Representative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
Representative of the United Nations Development Program Regional Office
Ag. Coordinator of the African Minerals Development Center
Representatives of our Development Partners in Sierra Leone – The African Development Bank, The United Nations Development Program, The German International Cooperation and The World Bank
Members of the Sierra Leone Delegation
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Please permit me to convey greetings from Honourable Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray, Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources of Sierra Leone who is very optimistic that this meeting will meet the objectives we have set for ourselves.
Let me thank the organizers for the hospitality that we have enjoyed since we arrived yesterday. We know that many hands have been working for weeks to make sure that we have a great event and we are thankful for all the hard work everyone has put into this.I would also like to thank the AMDC for assisting us tointegrate the regional dimension of the extractive resource management into our management regimes. The exploitation of Sierra Leone’s extractive resources has produced mixed results. Whereas our mineral resource endowments have undoubtedly contributed to economic growth and helped in government’s efforts to improve social service delivery, in equal measure, extractive resources have been deployed to support causes that have wreaked, mayhem and destroyed the lives of thousands of our compatriots during the armed rebellion in our country.
Since the end of the war, Sierra Leone has taken the path of correcting the wrongs of the past. Our development aspirations provide compelling reasons for us to harness our mineral resource wealth for good causes.
The importance of creating the right environment for good governance of the extractive sector cannot be overemphasized. It is for this reason that Pillar II of the Agenda for Prosperity, our national development plan, is dedicated to optimizing the benefits of our natural resource endowments for the good of our country and people.
The Government of Sierra Leone under the leadership of H.E. President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma is keen to unleash the potential of the extractive sector as a key driver of economic growth and poverty reduction. This, we believe, can only be achieved through deliberate and targeted decision-making processes that consider sustainable exploitation of our mineral resources, mitigate the adverse environmental and social effects inherent in mineral extraction; ensure upstream, side stream and downstream linkages with other sectors of the economy, optimize extractive sector revenue management practices while ensuring that investors get a good deal. Mineral wealth extraction must be a win-win for country and company.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. Just a few years ago, Sierra Leone was on the edge of a mining boom that promised transformational development. Investment poured into new iron ore projects and we registered some of the highest rates of economic growth in the world, hitting 15 percent in 2012 and 20 percent in 2013. Fast forward to 2015, thingsdo not look so optimistic. The twin effects of the recently defeated Ebola epidemic and the unforeseen drop in commodity prices, particularly iron ore, have had devastating effects on the economy of Sierra Leone.
Falling natural resource prices are impacting resource rich countries around the world. Of course, there is not much we can do to stop a downturn, but there is a lot that we can do to protect ourselves from the damaging effects of a downturn by ensuring that the framework for natural resource management are robust enough to produce a win-win situation for the investor and for the country and her people. As a government, we seek to create the enabling management environment that will produce the best results for us as a country and for investors.
After taking control of the reins of government, the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s administration embarked on key policy, legal and institutional reforms to improve governance of the extractive sector. The rapid increasein mining revenues and greater compliance with laws and regulations by extractive sector operators is testament to the fact that significant positive developments have taken place since 2007.
Since the passing of the major legal instrument for the mining sector, the Mines and Minerals Act of 2009 which sector analysts have described as one of the finest pieces of mining legislation on the continent, the sector has experienced significant changes. Large scale mining operations expanded to places previously unknown for mining. Mining operations became more complex as technologies improved. These rapid changes in the sector must be matched by robust management mechanisms to ensure that Sierra Leone benefits from its natural resource endowments but in a sustainable manner. Never must we consume our natural resource wealth without consideration for effects and their impact on generations coming after us. However, in order to do so, we must strengthen our management efforts of the extractive sector, and for that to happen, we need a robust policy environment upon which effective reforms can be built.
Ladies and Gentlemen. While we pursue efforts to improve our management regimes of the extractive sector in Sierra Leone, we are mindful that by doing so in isolation, we cannot achieve much. The nature and characteristics of the extractive resources in the Mano River basin and in deed, in most of Africa, require regional and continental approach to optimizing benefits for our respective countries. This truth was brought to the fore when African Heads of States adopted the African Mining Vision in 2009 and the AU Ministers responsible for Natural Resource management prepared the AMV Action Plan to assist member states of the AU to domesticate the Vision.
Sierra Leone is keen to work within the AMV framework which explains why we are gathered here today. With support from the World Bank, we have a draft Sierra Leone Core Minerals Policy that we now seek to align with the African Mining Vision. We expect that the deliberations in the next two days will produce a Draft Sierra Leone Core Minerals Policy that is aligned with the African mining Vision.
We see this meeting as a continuation of our long march together towards achieving our collective goal of using Africa’s mineral endowments for Africa’s development. I would like to thank our development partners for accompanying us on this historic journey. Their presence in this workshop demonstrates that they are not only interested in providing funding support to our efforts, but also make available their technical expertise for the achievements of our shared objectives.
Ladies and Gentlemen. I wish you happy celebrations during these holidays and a productive and successful 2016. Thank you.