Posted: Friday , 21 Dec 2007 – Mineweb.net – Archive
The government of Ernest Bai Koroma in Sierra Leone has instituted an inquiry into the bloody conflict at Koidu Holdings Mining Company in the country’s eastern mining district of Kono where two people were killed and several others hospitalized last week.
The police opened fire on 400 villagers who were protesting mining operations at Koidu Holdings owned by Geneva based diamond company, Steinmetz Group. Youths stormed the mining site and set fire to surrounding bush before looting mining equipment at the company. According to residents of Kono, people were protesting against the delay by the company in compensating families affected by its mining operations.
Following the arrest, Sierra Leone government imposed a 10pm to 6am curfew in the district, according to UN’s IRIN news agency. But the curfew did not go down well with Members of Parliament who visited Kono after it was imposed. They accused the government of taking a heavy handed action in quelling the unrest.
“We believe it was a peaceful demonstration which could have been settled through negotiations,” IRIN quotes a statement issued by the Members of Parliament who toured the district.
However police officials say the demonstrators were armed and the police acted in self defense and rebutted allegations that four people were killed, saying only two died from gun wounds.
The Commission of Inquiry set by Bai Koroma intends to look into events leading to the demonstrations which were staged Friday last week.
But Samuel Ngaujah, spokesperson for a group calling itself Affected Property Owners told the press that Koidu Holdings has not met promises to help in the resettlement of residents displaced by its operations, a statement supported by an NGO – Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) which claims that Koidu has reneged on agreements to provide better living conditions for people affected by their mining operations.
According to NMJD, Koidu should re-house 5,000 people affected by its mining operations but the miner said only 155 households will be resettled, a development that is likely to see tensions in the area simmering. A report on the inquiry is expected in three weeks.
Koidu is Sierra Leone’s biggest mine and has had problems with illicit miners invading its property. Koroma’s All People’s Congress (APC) government has expelled over 1, 000 illicit miners since assuming mantle of leadership in September this year.
Steinmetz Group holds the majority stake in Koidu Holdings, which mines the deepest vertical kimberlite pipe in the world after buying a 40 percent equity from Vancouver-based Energem Resources at US$18.25 million. Energem abandoned diamond mining to fully venture into oil, gas and biofuel projects.