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SIERRA LEONE'S GOVT. RELEASES WHITE PAPER ON COMMISSION OF INQUIRY REPORT
14 April 2008

Sierra Leone’s government has publicly released a White Paper on the Jenkins-Johnston Commission of Inquiry report compiled about Koidu Holdings. President Ernest Bai Koroma formally received the report in March, and his government put forth its considerations in the White Paper regarding the report’s findings and recommendations.

The Commission of Inquiry was created so as to compile a report based on its investigation into the relations between the Koidu Mine and its surrounding communities in the Kono District after the fatal disturbances that took place at the mine site on December 13, 2007. Two people were killed and others were injured in riots that broke out between locals in the diamond-rich province and security personnel from the Koidu Holdings Mining Company, owned by the Beni Steinmetz Resources Group. The clashes were said to have broken out due to residents’ discontent at the mining company’s impact on their living conditions. The residents claimed that Koidu Holdings never honored promises to address their grievances or help resettle those displaced by company operations, such as blasting.

The government-backed Commission put together a 105-page report containing testimonies from 42 witnesses and 17 specific recommendations; sources say that five of the recommendations relate to the fatal incident while the remaining 12 relate to the cause of the incident.

As expressed in the White Paper, the government has orders that a department inquiry be held into the conduct of the police officers involved in the fatal incident and that appropriate recommendations be made to the Police Council regarding disciplining them for the “indiscriminate use of firearms and live ammunition against civilians.”

The government also agrees with the Commission that Koidu Holdings is responsible for payment of compensation to those injured as a result of the incident as well as to relatives of the deceased “in view of the reckless conduct of some senior members of management of Koidu Holdings.”

Furthermore, specifically regarding Koidu Holdings’ operations, the government “accepts the recommendation relating to the blasting within the Koidu Holdings Lease area that with regard to those people who are in the blast envelope already at the present time, that there should be no further blasting in Dyke A until they are completely resettled, and that blasting can only take place in Pipe 1 where vertical pit mining is being done at the moment, and the charges therein should be so controlled that all debris should be within the pit.”

The government also accepts the Commission’s recommendation “that an independent team of arbitrators be appointed to agree on the type of houses to be constructed and the amenities provided.”

Addressing the country’s diamond industry as a whole, the White Paper says, “Government accepts the recommendation that value added industries should be established instead of exporting rough and uncut diamonds. Government implores the chiefs and the people of Kono to encourage investment in the district by their conduct and attitude.”

And, concerning the Commission’s recommendation about all types of future mining policies in country, the government agrees, saying: “it must always be borne in mind and must always be reflected in all concessions, contracts, leases and licences granted to any person to mine in Sierra Leone that the precious mineral being minded, be it diamonds, gold, or any other, belongs exclusively to the people of Sierra Leone present and future, and that the People of Sierra Leone are entitled to benefit from their God-given natural resource as much as possible. This should be the cornerstone of our mining policy.”

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