By Alpha Kamara
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AA) - A U.S.-owned mining company said Friday that it is seeking arbitration in an international court against the Sierra Leone government.
Sierra Leone Mining, also known as SL Mining, made the announcement after the government suspended its mining license and cancelled those of China’s Shandong Iron and Steel Group for allegedly failing to pay it royalties for iron ore extracted. Both companies deny the claim.
In a nationwide broadcast Friday on Radio Democracy, Minister of Mines Foday Rado Yokie said they took action against the two companies over payment irregularities.
“I have cancelled the license of Shandong Iron and Steel Group for not paying their dues to the government and the people of Sierra Leone. On Sierra Leone Mining, we suspended their license for uncompleted payment procedures. We will lift the ban only if the company pays a $1 million (performance) bond. We need serious investors and not ones that can hold on to our mineral wealth yet starve us from our dues as a nation,” Yokie said.
Sierra Leone Mining responded.
“The minister asking for one million U.S. dollars is an act of extortion because our company has paid all its dues. We have already served notices to bring the issue to an international court against the government,” Sierra Leone Mining’s director Alejandro Skidelsky was quoted in a press release as saying.
The company said in the release that its concession at the Marampa mine holds around one billion tonnes of iron ore and production could run for the next 30 years.
The deal is also being investigated by a commission of inquiry that was established to look into the activities and deals of the past government.
Shandong meanwhile has reportedly filed a suit at the country’s High Court seeking to overturn the decision by the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, which stripped the company’s two licenses for large-scale mining and the operation of a railway and port services.