The government of Sierra Leone has cancelled or suspended the licences of several big mining projects, including the Tonkolili and Marampa iron ore mines, the Financial Times reported on Friday.
Major companies operating in Sierra Leone include China’s Shandong Iron and Steel, which owns the Tonkolili iron ore project. Gerald Group owns the Marampa mines.
Tonkolili has challenged the decision in the country’s high court, arguing the grounds to justify the cancellation of its licences were invalid as it had paid all its fees and royalties, the FT said.
London-headquartered Gerald Group said: “We can confirm that a temporary operating suspension imposed by the Minister of Mines (MoM) expired on the 24 July 2019, following which the MoM requested that we do not export material until they review compliance with our mining license agreement with the NMA (National Minerals Agency)”.
Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio, since his election last year, has been reviewing mining contracts and considering changes to the law that would ensure the West African nation benefits from its natural resources.
The Minister of Mines and Sierra Leone’s new mining minister Foday Rado Yokie did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment, while Shandong could not immediately be reached.