One of the oldest mining companies in Sierra Leone, Sierra Rutile Limited, which is currently facing financial constraints, resulting in redundancies, retirements and reorganization, has faced the worst community action ever since it commenced operations in the Bonthe District three decades ago.
A security guard belonging to the Security Support Group International, deployed in Sierra Rutile’s operational area of Stiff Leg, in the vicinity of Moribatown, had been murdered in his location on the night of January 24th. The death of the guard, a citizen of the mining area, sparked off a mob reaction on the morning of January 25th by unemployed youths who ran to Sierra Rutile’s mine site and quarters in two groups, forcefully entered the compound hosting the company’s offices, held workers hostage for one full hour, looted bags of rice and other corporate property and made away with the loots. They also burnt down an SSGI vehicle attached to Sierra Rutile.
The second group vandalized some of the company’s quarters and looted many property items. Police went to the scenes, fired shots and dispersed the protesters and looters who had already helped themselves.
Over decades the relationship between Sierra Rutile and the mining area people had not been cordial. There had been many community protests there on allegations of Sierra Rutile discriminating against the local people in the award of jobs and promotions. Many educated sons and daughters of the Sierra Rutile operational Chiefdoms have been running to Freetown and other areas to look for employment. Sierra Rutile has also been accused of polluting water sources and not rehabilitating mined-out areas correctly. Though these issues do not justify the mayhem of January 25th, Sierra Rutile should review its community relations and ensure that such issues as employment and promotion are also viewed from the psychological and social angles in the interest of mine stability and peaceful co-existence with the community people.
Sierra Rutile’s CEO, John Bono Sisay, is a young man who should use his youthfulness and appeal to create positive engagement with the youth, despite his strong political and sanguinary relationships in the ruling All People’s Congress.