This came out clearly on Tuesday 10th May this year when the members of the Parliamentary Committee on Mining and Minerals, and representatives from the National Minerals Agency (NMA), the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, visited Komahun, a hitherto tiny village in the Gbogboafeh Section of Nimikoro Chiefdom in Kono District. The Parliamentary Committee had come on a fact finding visit. They wanted to know if Nimini Mining Limited (Nimini) was a viable entity or not so that they could make their recommendations which would determine the future of the company and its employees.
Nimini obtained its large-scale mining license in November 2012 in a demarcated concession with an area of 100 square kilometres situated within the Nimini Hills. The mining license area straddles two chiefdoms in Kono District that carry the name Nimi: Nimikoro Chiefdom and Nimiyama Chiefdom. The community people in both chiefdoms had always believed that the Hills have a deposit of gold, and they had at various times tried their hand at alluvial gold mining. But deposits of gold that have lain inside a hill or under a streambed will always remain there and be rather unaffected until moved by man by industrial scale modern mining methods. The day the community people realized that the top soil and even the streams around the Nimini Hills had gold, they started panning for that precious metal.
After the mining Licence was obtained in 2012, it was necessary to obtain a Mine Development Agreement for Nimini to continue with its long term mining venture. In February 2014 the Mining Development Agreement (MDA) was executed by the Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources. Nimini was subsequently advised by that Minister that Government required certain of the terms of the MDA to be re-negotiated ahead of ratification by Parliament. Butthe unfortunate outbreak of the Ebola virus disease caused that re-negotiation to be put on hold until the State of Public Emergency had been lifted. Fortunately, Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free in November 2015 and thus the Company looked forward to reopening negotiations for the MDA. That was the issue which occasioned the visit of the Parliamentary Committee. The Government wanted to know, through the Parliamentary Committee on Mining and Mineral Resources, if Nimini deserved legal recognition to re-commence its activities on site and advance the project to gold production.
As one would expect on such an auspicious visit, the employees of Nimini and the community people were agog with excitement on that day. They were out on the streets of Komahun very early that morning. As the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee, Honourable Amadu Kanu, admitted at the beginning of their meeting with Nimini representatives later in the day, what they saw was unexpected- in a positive way. It was a pleasant surprise.
Scores of bike riders, school children, traditional dancers and musicians were out early in Komahun in what looked like an attention grabbing competition, as each group seemed to want to outdo the others. As if they did not want their presence to go unnoticed, the Nimini employees were neatly clad in their uniforms, although they stayed within the perimeters of their compound, as discipline demanded. That was well before 11:00 am, the time the members of the Parliamentary Group were expected to arrive.
And when they arrived by 11:45, the whole of Komahun moved like a cyclone. The bike riders led the members of the Parliamentary Committee in a kind of convoy, moving slowly through waving crowds of school children, the chiefs and elders of Nimikoro and Nimiyama, the musicians and dancers, and the members of the community who had been attracted by the pomp and pageantry never seen before in their community.
The convoy moved through the rugged road of Komahun, right to the compound of Nimini , led by bike riders continuously blaring their horns. When the convoy arrived at the gate the vehicles carrying members of the Parliamentary Committee were allowed through, followed by the chiefs and elders. They made their way through the employees who had lined up on both sides to welcome their visitors for that day.
In a businesslike manner, the members of the Parliamentary Committee alighted from their vehicles and headed straight for the staff canteen, which had been meticulously prepared as the venue for the meeting.
The meeting had three phases. To commence, Dr. Yarjah welcomed the members of the Parliamentary Committee to Niminiand after introducing the Chairman, Honourable Amadu Kanu, he asked him to take over since the Committee had expressed the desire to meet with stakeholders of the mining company.
Honourable Kanu expressed delight at the welcome they had received, but added that this was not what they were expecting as they had planned to talk only to Nimini’s representatives. Nevertheless, they would find time to talk to the chiefs and the community people who had turned out to so warmly welcome them.
After their closed door meeting with the Nimini representatives, the members of the Parliamentary Committee, true to their word, found time to talk to the chiefs and the community people. Nimini employees were also present; they did not want to miss anything.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee said that because of time constraints they would only be able to give an opportunity to three people to talk on behalf of the community people. The first person to speak was Chief Sahr Kellie, Section Chief of Gbogboafeh Section in which Komahun is located. He expressed gratitude to the members of the Parliamentary Committee for finding the time to visit the community. He said that since the coming of Nimini, they were living cordially with the management and employees. Besides that, Nimini had built schools and a number of community facilities for them. In addition, several of the people from the community had been employed by Nimini, which was a great relief to them in this economically difficult time.
A geology student from Fourah Bay College, Tamba James Musa who is a beneficiary of a scholarship from Nimini, said he was grateful that he had got an opportunity to study at university level even though he was from a poor home, and he would definitely have dropped out of university without the financial support of Nimini.
Memento Dunbar who is the Chairman of the Education Unit of Nimikoro Chiefdom’s Community Development Committee said that there were over 150 beneficiaries of Nimini’s scholarships at various educational levels, all because Nimini was operating in their community. She said that Nimini had been of great relief to them in Nimikoro and Nimiyama since they had retained their staff by paying them their monthly salaries. Memento Dunbar said that had it not been for the Ebola outbreak, the community people would have received more benefits since Nimini had clearly demonstrated that it was ready to strictly fulfill its corporate social responsibility and to progress its gold mining project.
Responding to all these statements, Honourable Kanu said that they had clearly seen that Nimini was well liked by the community people, something which they had noticed on their arrival at Komahun. He had also noticed that Nimini had greatly helped the Community. He therefore would want to encourage Nimini to continue doing this for the people of the Nimikoro and Nimiyama Chiefdoms.
He however cautioned all sides to be patient since the Committee had only been sent on a fact finding mission and the final word would come from the Government. He also asked Nimini to ensure it was compliant with all the rules and regulations of the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources.
After all this, the members of the Parliamentary Committee were led on a conducted tour of the mining camp, where they inspected the equipment and machinery of the mining company before their departure.
As a country struggling with her economy, mainly because of the Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone definitely needs serious investment by international companies, and the mining sector plays a central role in this. The mining project to be put into operation by Nimini will contribute greatly to the country’s economy. Nimini’s major shareholder is listed on the London Stock Exchange and has already spent fifty one million dollars on exploration, and, when the MDA is ratified, is ready to incur additional expenditure to advance its project and secure financing of some one hundred and fifty million dollars to build the mine and processing facility to produce gold. The benefits to Government and the people of Sierra Leone when this mining operation begins should therefore not be underestimated.
Through royalties, income tax, taxes paid on the salaries of employees, development of the Komahun community in particular and of Nimikoro and Nimiyama Chiefdoms in general, the operations of Nimini will no doubt boost the President’s Agenda for Prosperity once the Mining Development Agreement has been signed and ratified by Parliament. This is the great expectation now of the people of Komahun, Nimikoro and Nimiyama Chiefdoms and Kono District. And this is why the matter of Nimini and the Mining Development Agreement has attracted the serious attention of the Ernest Bai Koroma Government.
That is also why any uncanny threat, veiled or unveiled, from some quarters against the operations of Nimini Mining Company in Kono District can be deemed as a carefully orchestrated conspiracy to undermine the executive powers of the President and to usurp the authority of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Mines and Minerals.
In this regard therefore, the employees of Nimini Mining Company and the community people of Komahun are calling on Paramount Chief Aiah Denton Bona, the M Ps of Constituencies 24 and 25, Honourable Rosky Momokani Mbayo and Honourable Tom Tucker respectively, the Kono Parliamentary Group, Honourable Paramount Chief Sheku Tejan Fasuluku, Paramount Chief Representative in Parliament for Kono District, the authorities of Nimikoro and Nimiyama Chiefdoms in particular and of Kono District in general, Konos in the Diaspora, to do all that lies within their power to attract this particular investment to Kono District so as to support the President to achieve the Agenda for Prosperity through substantial investment in this underground gold mining operation in Kono District