6 May 2020 – Lunsar, Sierra Leone: SL Mining Limited (“SL Mining” / the Company”), a wholly owned subsidiary of Gerald International Limited (“Gerald Group”) headquartered in the UK, is extremely concerned following the arrest of five expatriates on Wednesday, May 13th 2020. The nationalities of our senior management currently being held are – 2 British, 1 Indian, 1 South African, 1 dual nationality (Sierra Leone and USA). The safety and well-being of every employee is our utmost priority and we have sought the involvement of the relevant embassies for their immediate release.
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No formal charges have been made for their arrest at this point, and the Company’s offer of bail has been denied. At the time, the arresting officer cited the reason for arrest as inciting hatred in the township of Lunsar leading upto the destruction of property on April 30th. Not withstanding extensive press coverage of riots and arrests across Sierra Leone and reports of the Government of Sierra Leone accusing the opposition party of inciting violence, SL Mining has made it very clear that it has had no involvement whatsoever in a local incident on April 30th. SL Mining does not condone any such behaviour from its management or employees and immediately reviewed the situation of April 30th, performed its own internal investigation and concluded that SL Mining and its management team were not involved in any way in the local riot. SL Mining proclaims its innocence and condemns any and all acts of violence and hatred.
SL Mining believes that the arrest of our employees this week is an unwarranted attempt to pressure and intimidate us, while we are in a legal process relating to the purported cancellation of the Company’s mineral and mining rights. Any attempt to link any bona fide land lease payment obligations of SL Mining to the local riot in any way whatsoever is preposterous, completely erroneous and fanciful. The Company and the Government’s international legal obligations under the ICC arbitration rulings to date are to continue to behave in such a way as to assume that the mining licence remains in force. Therefore we believe we must continue to act in good faith.
The Shareholder of SL Mining has recently launched an additional litigation with the International Center for Investment Disputes of the World Bank Group (ICSID), and these arrests and detentions appear to be a direct retaliation against the success that SL Mining has had in the International Court of Arbitration (ICC) launched last year, in addition to the more recent ICSID process which tribunal was formed in April 2020. The Government of Sierra Leone continues to ignore and wholly refuses to comply with the awards and orders of the ICC to date. We share the diplomatic communities’ concern and bewilderment regarding recent events of violence and public disorder in Sierra Leone. We condemn any such acts of violence and would never condone any such behaviour, and as well frown upon the Government’s actions of allowing the arrest of individuals, the targeting and removal of our senior employees, when any such investigation could have taken place at the mine site. Our senior employees at SL Mining do not pose any flight risk, the airport in Sierra Leone remains closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the management of SL Mining are astonished that the Government of Sierra Leone has taken our employees out of the safe sterile environment on the mine site during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We are naturally very concerned for the health and safety of our employees who continue to be detained at time when the country is in a state of emergency due to Covid-19. We strongly object to their arrest and continued detention. We also find this concerning given that we have over 150 additional employees currently on-site, and almost a thousand former employees who are local residents waiting patiently since September to return to work at the Marampa mine. We are also aware that the Government is pursuing and has arrested, typically without charge, a number of these former and current employees as local residents in a private capacity.
SL Mining is a responsible mining company, and our Community & Development team continues to liaise with local authorities and local residents to appeal for calm, cooperation and to observe legal due process in a fair and transparent manner. We urge His Excellency President Maada Bio to take urgent action to prevent the unnecessary endangerment of human life and halt these acts of intimidation currently targeting SL Mining. We appeal to the local authorities to act in a responsible manner, uphold fundamental human rights, and allow any investigation to be undertaken at the mining site, as the management team of SL Mining clearly does not pose any flight risk.
In September 2019, SL Mining was forced to put the mine into Care and Maintenance due to the abrupt and unlawful restrictions on iron ore exports starting on 3 July 2019, and production at the Marampa mine ceased following other subsequent actions taken by the Government of Sierra Leone, culminating in the purported cancellation of SL Mining’s mining license on 7 October 2019. This purported cancellation was unlawful and invalid and was contrary to the amended Order of the Emergency Arbitrator officiating in the ICC arbitration between SL Mining and the Government of Sierra Leone.
For information visit: https://slmining.com
SL Mining is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Gerald International Limited, which is the holding company for all entities in Gerald Group. The Group is one of the world’s leading commodity groups, and the oldest and largest employee-owned metals merchant in the world. SL Mining restarted production at the Marampa Project after 4 years, following earlier failed attempts by other international companies. SL Mining began marketing and shipping premium grade >65% iron ore concentrate to steel mills in China in June and July 2019 from the Marampa Project.