Three hours of heavy rains led to several accidents by commercial and private motor bikers, losing properties, among many odds.
It all started when Kono district woke-up on Friday 3rd June 2016 and saw blockage on both entrance and outlet point of Koidu city at Lebanon old fuelling station and at 5-5-5 spots which were manned by the Sierra Leone Police and Armed personnel. It was also noticed that under the ‘Congo bridge’ there was serious mining activities involving excavators and heavy machines by unknown people a semblance of ‘junta mining’ aka ‘Pull en Was’ which raised alarms in the district.
This type of mining was out rightly condemned by both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officer, the district Mines Engineer, the community people, the Kono Student Union, Civil Society and other land rights activists. This saw rising tension among youth in that part of the country planning to stage a demonstration purposely to know those that are behind the mining and of what benefit will it be to the district and its people?
On 17th June 2016, the Kono Students Union started a campaign against the illicit town mining that is ongoing along the Congo Bridge in Koidu City. The mining that started without the knowledge of the people of Kono say they were focussed on who is involved and the reasons for the mining activity on such a key road of that nature.
In an exclusive interview with Jeremiah Aiah Gbanga, the President Kono Students Union (KONSU) in Koidu town said part of their mandate is to advocate on burning issues for their colleagues students and the district in particular. He said they decided to take up the campaign for the illegal mining in the municipality which according to him the entire district were unaware of.
Mr. Gbanga said, “The Union being a strong institution that has the mandate to plan and execute its activities within the context of the laws of Sierra Leone, sees the ongoing mining operation as a syndicate to exploit, oppress the people of Kono and also undermine the democratic processes of this country as clauses in two main acts (the Mines and Minerals Act 2009 and the Environmental Protection Agency Act 2008) are being compromised.”
It could be recalled that on Thursday 30th June 2016, the Civil Society Network (CSN) in Kono officially called on the attention of President Koroma in a letter request for presidential intervention to stop the on-going illicit town mining on the Congo bridge in Kono.
In an interview with the Executive Secretary of CSN Kono Momoh Gbonkor Bangura, after the cut-off of the main bye-passe route to Koidu said, in April this year arrests and detentions were made by the Police of people involved in what the SLP and Local Authorities labelled as illegal town mining activity under the said bridge. The move according to him was widely welcomed in the district as many people saw it as a deterrent for further attempts on the site but went on that they were surprised to see active mining under the said bridge.
Mr. Bangura alleged, the illicit town mining has the potential to create undue delay on the on-going road rehabilitation work which has brought about a complete cut off from both the main and bye-pass roads through Kainsay community. He said after they had engaged EPA and NMA, the District Security committee and relevant stakeholders on the issues they will soon come out with strong position that will address the situation once and for all.
In an exclusive interview with the Paramount Chief of Tankoro chiefdom where the present illegal mining is ongoing, PC Paul Gaber Saquee IV revealed that at the time of the road cut-off he was in Freetown receiving conflicting news from his chiefdom and district pointing that since the entire illegal mining activity started he had ‘never’ been a party to it.
PC Saquee said, “I am not a miner but rather a Paramount Chief who knew nothing absolutely about mining all I do is to support whatever mining activities accepted by government so with regards the ongoing mining in my chiefdom, am not party to it and there is no time that I had ever think of writing or saying anything in supports of giving authority of that mining,” he pointed out.
He went on that, “During the recent stakeholders meeting in Kono I was not informed neither did anyone told me of it because I don’t want to be party to any illegal activities that undermines my chiefdom and people. I am a chief standing for strong principles of governance and also am not ever aware that the Israelis diamond miner MAX is owner of Pluto mining company but I will discuss around the issue more when am in Kono by next week,” he concluded.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Kono district Officer Kamorba K. Dabour confirmed that he had since condemned the ongoing mining within the township with according to him is against the EPA Act. He said he had wrote his head office copying various stakeholders including the District Security Committee (DiSeC) on the ‘bad mining practice’ in the town and on wetlands.
Mr. Dabour said they had organized sensitization training for stakeholders and key players in the district on environmental laws and also embark on radio discussions but all their efforts did not come out positively. He said the present cut-off had damaged two houses closer to the bye-passed with properties lost as a result of flooding along the route but pointed that they will; not relent to condemn the act until it is stop.