Sierra Leone’s new iron ore mine is a sign of what the mining industry could bring to the impoverished nation whose government and mining bodies are determined to see the industry play a bigger role in the nation’s development.
The agrarian country, which experienced a depressed economy in the last two decades of last century before its civil war ended in 2002, was experiencing a 4.2% annual growth rate by 2017, a decline on the 7.8% or so it achieved in 2003-2014 before 2015’s Ebola outbreak.
Its diamond and gold resources hold promise for investors, but so too does its iron ore resources which attracted SL Mining and London-based sustainable metals trading house Gerald Group.
SL Mining’s first ship-out of concentrate from Freetown Port last week was certainly a good indication of Sierra Leone’s potential for iron ore mining and its improved export-earning prospects on the mining front.
Some 55,000 tonnes of high-grade 65%-quality iron ore concentrate from Lunsar in Port Loko District, northern province left Freetown on a vessel destined for customers in China, a known and eager market.
The project’s current project resources are an estimated one billion tonnes of iron ore grading 32% iron for 30 years of production.
SL Mining and Gerald Group chairman Craig Dean acknowledged the milestone for the producer and metals trading house, which restored iron ore production at Marampa mine to market what the company hopes will be a signature brand, Marampa Blue iron ore concentrate.
Dean said, “Gerald Group’s … goal is to make Marampa Blue an internationally recognised premium grade iron ore brand. As we continue to build on our progress so far, to deliver sustainable and responsible mining in Marampa, we intend to expand the delivery of high-grade 65% iron ore concentrate to markets in Europe and Africa.”
Like other ambitious operators considering investments in Sierra Leone, SL Mining is hoping to be a long-term player in the country with its nationally-important project.
It has a 25-year licence granted two years ago and the support of the local community
SL Mining’s $300 million investment is likely to have a flow-on benefit to the community like other mining projects on the continent, creating a workforce of up to 1800 people, building the skillsets of local employees and in-country managers and aiding an improvement to the area’s infrastructure.
The miner is hoping to expand its operations by integrating mining, processing and rail and port logistics, and play a responsible role in the economic and social stability of Lunsar region.
Diamond mining in the country also holds promise after the country hosted diamantaires and jewellers from across the world in April, as the government spearheaded talks about an industry strategy and a planned miner-to-government sales channel.
Sierra Leone and the mining industry are certainly committed to moving forward the country’s economy. Perhaps each party’s commitment will help the nation build upon its promise for the benefit of the nation, the industry and its people. Let’s apply an iron will and keep things moving so we can target further growth.
- Yolanda Torrisi is Chairperson of The African Mining Network and comments on African mining issues and the growing global interest in the continent. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org