Freetown (AFP) April 14, 2011
The government of Sierra Leone said Thursday it has launched an investigation into the alleged acquisition of the Bagla Hills iron ore deposit in the east of the country by two mining companies.
The Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources said in a statment that "the purported holding of 206.75 square kilometres by Sable Mining is not recognised by the government of Sierra Leone and the reported purchase is therefore illegal, void and of no effect whatsoever."
"Government has instituted an investigation into the alleged acquisition by two companies, Red Rock Mining and Sable Mining with the intention of prosecuting any officials or entity involved in the scam."
The government added that it wished to make known "that any and all mineral resources or occurrences within or nearest around Bagla Hills are not and have never been available for prospecting, exploration or mining as they fall within a reservation area."
The statement said Sable Mining had claimed ownership of a 50-year lease of an area covering Bagla Hills in the Tonkia Chiefdom iron ore deposit.
"We don't have records of both companies existing in our files and we are at a loss as to how they come to make such a dream claim," a senior administrative officier who asked not to be named said.
Government mining officials told AFP that Sable Mining had issued a statement earlier this month saying it had acquired an 80 percent interest in Red Rock Mining Company, which holds a 50-year lease over an area covering Bagla Hills near the Liberian border.
One mining expert said the Bagla Hills deposit "is believed to be an extension of the western cluster iron ore deposits in Liberia with world class potential."
Ministry of Forestry officials interviewed on the issue said that "it is impossible to allow mining in the Bagla Hills and its environs as it is classified as a preserved area for its rich environment."
"We have records of dozens of endangered species in the area such as elephants, zebra duiker, leopards and pigmy hippos and we cant destroy them to allow mining," he stressed.
Sable Mining CEO Andrew Groves said, "The Bagla Hills project has world class potential with existing reports already indicating a resource estimate of 838Mt at 32% Fe. The geology clearly indicates the possibility for a much bigger project with large tonnages of iron ore being present covering the two ridges and at depth along the keel of the fold axis.
Bagla Hills is about 52km SSE of Kenema, south-east Sierra Leone, forming a continuation of long-known Western Cluster iron-ore deposits across the border with Liberia, represented by Mano River, Bomi Hills and Bea Mountain. The lease covers 206.75 sq km and is held by Red Rock Mining (SL) Limited and succeeds an earlier Exploration Prospecting Lease, EPL 10/2005.
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