August 2, 2019 / 5:26 PM / 6 months ago

Sierra Leone cancels or suspends major mining licenses: FT

(Reuters) - The government of Sierra Leone has canceled or suspended the licenses of several big mining projects, including the Tonkolili and Marampa iron ore mines, the Financial Times reported on Friday.

Since his election last year, Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio has been reviewing mining contracts and considering changes to the law that would ensure the country benefits from its natural resources.

Major companies operating in Sierra Leone include China’s Shandong Iron and Steel, which owns the Tonkolili project. Gerald Group owns SL Mining which operates in the Marampa region.

Tonkolili has challenged the decision in the country’s high court, arguing the grounds to justify the cancellation of its licenses were invalid as it had paid all its fees and royalties, the FT said.

London-headquartered Gerald Group said: “We can confirm that a temporary operating suspension imposed by the Minister of Mines (MoM) expired on the 24 July 2019, following which the MoM requested that we do not export material until they review compliance with our mining license agreement with the NMA (National Minerals Agency)”.

In an emailed statement the company said it was cooperating with the Ministry and believed the matter would be quickly resolved.

The Minister of Mines and Sierra Leone’s new mining minister Foday Rado Yokie did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment, while Shandong could not immediately be reached.

Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong, Noor Zainab Hussain and Muvija M in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Samantha Machado; Editing by David Evans and David Holmes

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