Currently, there is anxiety in the mining of Sierra Leone's natural resources though very little to show in communities where these mining activities are taking place. Both large and small-scale mining activities across the country have resulted in land degradation through loss of vegetative cover, soil erosion, and contamination of water sources.
The township of Tongo Fields, which is located in the Lower Bambara Chiefdom, Kenema District, is no exception. A considerable number of youths in that part of the country have reverted to other economic activities instead of mining, as they believe the trade in Tongo is no longer lucrative and a waste of resources and time.
Majority of them are now engaged in commercial bike riding and agriculture to sustain their livelihoods. Also, a number of business outlets in the township of Tongo have closed down as a result of the teething economic condition facing the community, and with customers hard to come by.
"Mining is difficult in Tongo; we are not finding diamonds anymore because all the good plots are being mined by the multinational companies," lamented local miner Foday Lahai in an exclusive interview with Concord Times. "We are not sure of finding diamonds anymore because we have worked in this pit for over three months without finding any. We are here to lookfor our daily bread."
Momoh Juana is a father of three who also caters for his extended family at Lalihun village. He said they were left with no option but to resort to commercial bike riding as the high cost of living is one of the major challenges they are grapplingwith in the community.
"There is no proper medical facility here,and we still depend on boreholesas there is no pipe-borne water here. It is worthy to note that there is no government institution in this community, and for some of us who had relied on the diamond trade for the past years, we are now finding it difficult to survive," Juana said.
Tongo has produced some of the world's highest quality diamonds but is one of the poorest communities in Sierra Leone.Those who have controlled the mines in the past have not allowed the proceeds from the diamond trade to reach the general populace.
Before now, the government has introduced the Diamond Area Community Development Fund (DACDF) as an initiative to strengthen citizen participation in decision-making on natural resource management.The DACDF embraces community-led decision-making as a means of ensuring that more benefits go to impoverished and vulnerable communities.
However, most of the projects embarked on by authorities in Tongo have not reduced poverty among the people in that part of the country.