I am today calling for the most dramatic, controversial and radical reform to Sierra Leone’s mining industry in history. I’m calling for fairness.
Given our country’s history of the exploitation of our valuable natural resources, it is radical indeed to ask that the ordinary people of Sierra Leone benefit from the profits made by foreign countries and companies. I don’t believe that as a nation we should be jealously guarding our natural resources and rejecting all international attempts to mine here.
Sierra Leone is a progressive, modern country and we want to play our full part in the international community – a leading role, in fact.
But there can be little doubt that the rare earth mineral industry requires new regulation so that ordinary people (not just the government or government officials) benefit from outside investment and exploitation. Foreign investors should be treated with respect and consideration, but they should receive no special favours that aren’t being applied to domestic companies and citizens.
Foreign companies are welcome in Sierra Leone, provided they pay a fair price for the privilege of working here.
At the moment it’s estimated that our nation receives only about three per cent of the profits from our mining industry. Compare that, for example, with Botswana, where the government receives a third of the profits from mining yields. We desperately need a new licensing regime that would see a massive increase in payments to Sierra Leonans.
Sierra Leone is open for business, but investors need to pay for the privilege of doing business here. The perception of foreign exploitation can lead to resentment among the populace, who understand that only through a fairer system of distribution of profits, can Sierra Leonans earn enough to reinvest in our critical infrastructure, which in turn will lead to improved standards of living.
We are a country that is wealthy in natural resources. There is enough to go round. But the days of unfair exploitation, of wealth for the few and not the many, must come to an end.