IPS reports that in January, Sierra Leone became one of the first West-African countries to launch an online mining database. The database is said to increase transparency of the country’s mining operations. The system will contain all data on mineral rights, statuses and payments recorded by the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources that pertain to Sierra Leone’s extractive industry. It will also record and publish this information for public accessibility.
The system is a joint initiative between the government of Sierra Leone and international donors, including the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), the United Nations Development Programme, the Revenue Development Foundation and the World Bank.
According to IPS: The purpose of the system is to have information on all revenue data for the country’s extractive industry – payments made for licenses, royalties, and contributions to local chiefdoms – collected, recorded and published for public accessibility. It also shows whether mining companies have been authorised to legally operate in the country.
The country’s mining industry has had a long history with conflict and unregulated operation. It is noted for its ‘blood diamonds’ and other conflict minerals. Mining of these are responsible for financing the country’s civil war and consumers are becoming aware of the situation. The country also has deposits of iron ore, bauxite, rutile, and gold apart from diamonds.
The online database is an attempt to make the country compliant with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and this requires publications of payments made by mining companies to the government as well as revenues generated from project. The Country Director of the Network Movement for Justice and Development, Abu Brima feels that this database is a critical stance towards a more transparent mining industry in Sierra Leone, however he feels that updating the information is of crucial importance.
The government of Sierra Leone, the Strategy and Policy Unit (SPU) of the country and the mining companies themselves are responsible for updating the website. However, according to Mohammed Konneh, Secretary General of the Association of Journalists on Mining and Extractives,”As much as the system is promised to address issues of corruption, I don’t think it will holistically address the problem when there is the tendency for the officials of the ministry to only upload information that is in their own interest and not crucial information that the public will want to know about.”
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