Addressing the paramount chiefs, President Bio said they have a crucial role to play in moving the country forward, adding that they are custodians of security and peace.
He called on them to take responsibility if Sierra Leone is to develop and further called on them to work together with the central government, pointing out that his administration cannot do it alone. “We work together, we can make Sierra Leone a better place for our children yet unborn,” President Bio pleaded.
He mentioned that one of the greatest assets the country has is its mineral resources which belong to all Sierra Leoneans. He further mentioned that whether or not it is coming from a particular region or chiefdom, they still belong to all Sierra Leoneans.
“A lot of illegal activities are going on at certain chiefdoms and the paramount chiefs are not informing the central government and so you have also condoned those acts that have been causing huge loss to the country and we have not been able to collect tax,” the president added.
He emphasized that the money generated from the country’s mineral resources can be utilized to develop the country and will benefit all; stating that it would be used for infrastructural development and developing human resource for the many programmes it can be utilized for.
He cautioned paramount chiefs to stop illegal trading activities which are against the interest of the people of Sierra Leone; disclosing that the country cannot generate the requisite funds from its natural resources if paramount chiefs promote illicit mining activities and illegal timber logging.
He added “You need to stop giving permission to illicit miners because it is not beneficial to all the people but only to a few people.”
President Bio warned that anyone caught obstructing development would be gotten rid off, adding that everyone must contribute towards nation-building for the future generations.
He disclosed that he is in possession of documents that have been issued by local authorities to business people permitting large scale mining of gold and diamond. “Don’t be greedy,” the president warned.
President Bio further said youth have been injured and suffered in many other ways as a result of illicit mining activities in different chiefdoms. He also mentioned that it has led to prostitution, and pointed out that it is the responsibility of the paramount chiefs to stop all those activities in their chiefdoms.
Responding, PC Alhaji Alimamy Sorie of Makalie Chiefdom called for the revamping of the Ministry of Mines. He said the Mines Ministry has been the one issuing letters of permission to miners. He added that they have tried on several occasions to put a stop to illicit miners but are unable because illicit miners have the support of people in the Mines Ministry.
“Mr. President I think you need to change from the directors downwards in order to address the issue of illicit mining,” he said and went on to mention Mines Monitors should be empowered to help local authorities prevent illicit mining.
He pleaded for continued dialogue between local authorities and the Mines Ministry to promote transparency in the issuing of license to miners.
P.C Alfred Demby of Baoma Chiefdom, Bo District stated that the National Mineral Agency should consider scraping exploration license. He mentioned that miners have been using big machines to mine without grading the roads and the holes they leave behind are not filled thus leaving the community in deplorable state.
He stated that Mines Monitors are much more involved in illicit mining activities, and therefore called for a strong mechanism to monitor the Mines Monitors. He pleaded with the President to reinstitute their local courts for them to be able to deal with illegal activities in their chiefdoms.
President Bio assured paramount chiefs that he will look into all their many complains to tackle illicit mining for the benefit of the country, and asked that they become a constructive part of the New Direction agenda.