Sierra Leone: RSLAF Accused of Protecting Illegal Miners

A report tabled in Parliament regarding illegal mining activities along the Taia, Papana and tributary streams in Bonthe District, has revealed that military personnel of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAFSAL), were providing security for the foreigners involved in illegal mining that caused water pollution and subsequently death of residents in those communities.

The pollution caused by illegal mining operations along the Taia River became very alarming and Members of Parliament representing the affected communities raised serious concern about the issue. During a parliamentary sitting on the 4th March, 2021, Hon. Alice Jebbeh Kumabeh, representing Bonthe District, stood on Standing Order 23 and informed the Speaker and the entire House about the serious water pollution in her constituency and other parts of the country.

Yesterday in Parliament, the Special Select Committee on Water Pollution, Chaired by Hon. Emerson S. Lamina, recommended that all artisanal and illegal mining activities along the Taia, Papana and tributary streams, near the Kangari Hill, be put on hold until all necessary modalities are put in place by the ministries concerned.

According to the report laid on the table of Parliament on Tuesday by the Chairman, Hon. Lamina, the Committee arrived at a logical conclusion that the Taia/Jong River pollution has been largely caused by mining activities along the Pampana River and its tributary streams in Tonkolili District and Hugy River in Valunia Chiefdom, Bo District, which finally empties downstream into the Taia/Jong River.

The Committee observed that prevalent sand mining along the banks of the said river could possibly be another cause of pollution, albeit at a very low magnitude.

According to the report, the pollution along the dam to the stream along the Taia Jong River (Mattru), caused 17 deaths due to water borne disease.

It was also observed that a vast agricultural lowland along the said river have been destroyed by toxic water caused by the polluted river, a condition that has adverse effect on farming, fishing and marine species.

The Committee further observed that the pollution along the river has caused serious the shortage of drinking water and affected other domestic use.

It reveals that many wells along the community also got dried up due to high population.

The committee further observed that mining companies were using chemical substances including mercury, which were causing pollution and subsequently affected human and marine life habitation.

The report notes that foreigners, mainly Turkish national, were dwelling in a forest in the Kangarie Hills, Tonkolili District, and were undertaking large scale mining operations using heavy duty equipment at the beds of Pampana River mainly.

"Those miners were conducting their mining activities in the bed of the rivers. The rubbles and mod have been degraded by the dredges and piled hugely on the bed of the rivers which is affecting the water flow and dirt's polluting the water," the report states.

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