Seawright Mining Company (SMC) has paid the sum of eight hundred million Leones (Le800,000,000) as surface rent to Gbense, Tankoro and Kamara Chiefdoms in the Kono district.
The payment, which was witnessed by chiefdom authorities, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Minerals Agency (NMA), Anti-Corruption Commission, Civil Society, LUC Tankoro Division, ONS, Youth and Women’s leaders and the press, took place at the newly renovated Chiefdom Council Building in Koidu City on Thursday 29th April.
The payment was for the company’s Boroma Concession on which the Seawright Mining Company will be undertaking a large scale diamond mining project in the Gbense Chiefdom, which hosts 80% of the concession with a slight concession spilling to Tankoro and Kamara Chiefdoms.
The payment follows expression for the company by the Paramount Chiefs and their subjects to operate in their chiefdoms during a two-day public consultation and disclosure of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) on the 26th and 27th March, as a standard requirement of the Environmental Protection Agency Act of 2008.
SMC Chief Operating Officer (COO), Jabulani Mkoko, described the occasion as a momentous one for them to fulfil another part of the legal requirements for operating large scale mining, which is the payment of the surface rent.
“We feel honoured by cementing our relationship with the community,” he said, adding that it is good for the environment to be conducive for business to thrive because when business thrives, it will benefit the company, the community and the nation at large.
Mr Mkoko thanked all the stakeholders, including the government of Sierra Leone, for their support and promised that they will abide by all the terms and conditions agreed upon as they are a law-abiding company.
“The community can expect the best out of us, we are a very good corporate citizen. We are going to exercise good corporate citizenship in everything we do. The community can also expect to benefit from this arrangement that we have made once we start generating revenue,” he assured.
SMC has renovated the chiefdom council building and installed 10KV solar power, and equipped it with computers, among other office equipment.
Giving an analysis of the surface rent, SMC Finance Officer, Adama Jalloh, disclosed at the jam-packed hall that the Le 800 Million was paid to the three Chiefdom, noting that Gbense Chiefdom which hosts 80% of the concession got 80% of the money, which is equivalent to Le 640 Million. He went on to disclose that Tankoro and Kamara Chiefdoms got each 10%, which is Le 80 Million each.
From this amount, the money was shared that the various stakeholders got 50%, which is equivalent to Le 640 Million, which was divided among the landowners so that Paramount Chiefs received 15%, the Council 15%, Constituency Development 10% and the Chiefdom Administration 10%.
In Gbense Chiefdom, Hon. PC Sahr Fengai Korgbende Kaimachiande III thanked the government and SMC for considering them at this time. He described the day as “very historic” as it is the first time in the history of Gbense Chiefdom for them to receive surface rent on such a large scale.
“This is the first time for us also to have a good company on a large scale in our Chiefdom, for which we are very much grateful,” he affirmed.
PC Kaimachiende described the payment process as very transparent, noting that their respect has been restored.
The Chiefdom Administration Clark for Gbense Chiefdom, B.M Daramy, said that they were happy with the renovation of the building.
EPA Admin/Finance Officer, Alusine Bangers, educated the audience on why surface rent was set up by the government, noting that EPA is concerned about development in mining communities.
He also informed them of what is expected of the community people and their roles and that of the company. He then disclosed that Kono District now has and can boast of four large scale mining activities, which means development will begin to take place.
NMA Regional manager, Kai Lebbie, explained their function and quoted Section 34 of the NMA Act which made SMC pay the surface rent. He emphasized that after the payment, any other activity conducted by other parties on the land will be illegal because the company now have full right over the land.
“If the company has done what the law says, it is also mandatory on the authority to do all it takes to protect and allow the company to operate freely,” he maintained.