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Sierra Leone
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With more than 70% of the country underlain by Archaean terrane, Sierre Leone holds enormous exploration potential. Diamonds and rutile play major roles in Sierra Leone's mineral production. However, several foreign companies have suspended operations due to civil unrest in the country. Mining production has virtually ceased, with artisanal production being smuggled out. Sierra Leone has gold and bauxite potential, with several companies carrying out exploration prior to the war. However, all mining permissions have been suspended since January 2000. Even though, civil war has greatly disrupted the mining industry in the country, mining has been paramount to its export trade. Sierra Leone's main resources are diamonds, gold, rutile bauxite and platinum.

Heavy Minerals

Sierra Rutile used to be the world’s largest rutile producer, but production ceased in 1995 due to the outbreak of civil war. Sierra Rutile’s operation is based at Gbangbatok in the southwest of Sierra Leone. Prior to closure the mine was producing 25% of the world’s rutile, equating 150,000 t and 65,000 t/y ilmenite. Reserves are enormous and have been estimated at 278 Mt of ore that contain 4 Mt of rutile. Sierra Rutile owned jointly by MIL Investments SARL and US Titanium.

Diamond

Diamonds were discovered in Sierra Leone in 1930. The civil war has led to a proliferation of illegal diamond mining and smuggling, depriving Sierra Leone of at least US$600 million a year in foreign exchange. Apparently, most diamonds are being smuggled to Liberia. Sierra Leone produced 2.5 million carats of diamonds a year prior to the outbreak of civil war in 1992, with production in 2002 estimated at 300,000ct (officially).

DiamondWorks has invested US$11 million in six mining projects. The company has a 25-year renewable lease to exploit kimberlite diamond deposits around the eastern town of Koidu, 250 km from the capital city of Freetown, and has exploration licences for other alluvial diamond properties. The Koidu property consists of a series of kimberlite dykes and pipes and has proven and probable reserves estimated at 2.6Mct and 1.9Mct from inferred reserves. DiamondWorks owns only 60% of the equity, with 30% of the equity belonging to the government while the other 10% being publicly owned. Prior to civil war breaking out, a 10,000 ton bulk sample was due to be taken. DiamondWorks are to return to the country to revive exploration and mining activities, where the focus will be on Koidu as well as other properties in the country. DiamondWorks with its subsidiary Magma Diamond Resources in order to develop the Koidu kimberlites where an initial capital cost of US$6.2 million is required to commence commercial production. The company is also restoring the plant in the Koidu kimberlite complex and Mano River Resources Inc, working through its subsidiary Golden Leo Resources has discovered eight new kimberlites containing macrodiamonds in the Kono area.

Rex Diamond Corporation has mining licenses at the Tongo fields and Zimmi.

De Beers recently terminated offshore exploration for marine diamonds in Sierra Leone, probably due to poor expectations. Cassierra, a Canadian group, renewed its 600 km2 exploration license after receiving more encouraging results. 20 commercial size diamonds were found with stones reaching a maximum size of 122 carats. These are the first diamonds to be located in marine sediments in West Africa.

The country has experienced a notable increase in diamond exports from 2004 to 2005. It is estimated that diamond exports from Sierra Leone had amounted to about $126 million and is believed to have risen to over US$140 million in 2005.

Most of the financial investment in the country’s diamond sector has been dominated by Koidu Holdings Limited (KHL), which had acquired kimberlite deposits in the Kono and Tongo Fields, and the Sierra Leone Diamond Company (SLDC), mostly involved in the prospecting side of the mining industry.

Bauxite

The Sierra Leone Ore and Metals Company operate Sierra Leone’s bauxite mines. The Sieromco mine, a subsidiary of Alusuisse of Switzerland, exploited bauxite deposits. Bauxite exports were worth 8.76 billion leones (about R50 million) in 1994, prior to the war. Production has not yet resumed. Remaining reserves at the Sieromco mine are estimated at 12 Mt. Additional bauxite reserves in the Port Loko area have been identified to contain a resource of 100Mt. However, the rapid deterioation of the local infrastructure will hamper the development of these and other resources in Sierra Leone.

Mineral Law & Legislation

The Ministry of Mineral Resources has the responsibility to develop policies and programmes for the systematic and economic exploitation of mineral resources as well as formulate appropriate regulations for the mining industry and related activities to ensure that the nation derives maximum benefit from the mineral resources.

The minerals sector is governed by the Mines and Minerals Act of 1996. There are several regulations dealing with the industry. A Core Minerals Policy has been formulated.

Major Players in the Industry

  • Africa Metal Ltd.
  • Gold Dust Miners Sierra Leone
  • Koidu Holdings
  • London Mining Plc. - Sierra Leone
  • Sierra Rutile Ltd.
  • Sori Minerals and Agri Products
  • Star Gold and Diamond Miners

Key Figures

  • Diamond production: 300,000 carats (2002)

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