RAPAPORT… Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma has enlisted experts from the World Bank to help review mining licenses granted by the country’s previous government, Reuters reported.
Koroma told Reuters the review of all mining contracts would be complete within the next three months to resolve disputes over licenses.
“We inherited a situation in which two licenses were given for exploration or mining in one location. We have at least three or four such situations,” Koroma said. “We only will say that everybody will be given a fair trial. At the end of the process they themselves will be a lot more comfortable to proceed.”
Koroma, who was elected president in September, is looking to lift poverty in the country through foreign investments, particularly in the mining industry, which accounts for approximately 90 percent of Sierra Leone’s exports.
The mining industry, and particularly the diamond mining sector, was hard hit during the 11-year civil war which ended 2002.
Koroma said the disputed contracts, along with broader worries over corruption made it difficult to attract investors to the mining sector, still struggling to recover from the war.
Among the diamond companies active in the west African country include Target Resources, Petra Diamonds, Benny Steinmetz’ Koidu Holdings SA, and exploration company West African Diamonds.
“When (the review) is conducted, we hope to lay to rest all of the difficulties we have in this mining sector and open it up because it has a huge potential,” Koroma said. “We only need to sanitize the whole industry. And when we sanitize it, I think it will get into activity again.”