SL Mining to halt operations at Marampa iron ore mine in Sierra Leone

SL Mining’s first iron ore concentrate from Marampa, branded “Marampa Blue’, set sail from Freetown Port in June this year. (Image courtesy of Gerald Group.)

SL Mining, a subsidiary of US commodity trader Gerald Group, is reportedly planning to halt operations as early as next week to help it offset the impact of Sierra Leone’s ban on exports from the company’s Marampa mine, imposed in July.

Despite an international court recently ordering the West African nation to lift the prohibition, authorities remain firm, claiming that SL Mining has failed to maintain the mine’s agreed work schedule or make royalty payments. 

The company, which rejects the government’s claims, told employees that without being able to export, it was not possible for them to remain in operation.

Mining to be halted as early as next week, affecting more than 1,000 local employees.

“The [Sierra Leone’s government] continues to ignore the terms of the London court’s final order, failing to engage in a meaningful discussion with SL Mining,” it said in a letter published by The Sierra Leone Telegraph.

“SL Mining’s sole shareholder, the Gerald Group, has invested a great deal of money and efforts in Sierra Leone over many years and yet, was only allowed to make three successful shipments in a highly favorable market before being struck [by the ban],” it said.

The move would leave more than 1,000 locals on forced leave.

SL Mining’s first iron ore concentrate from Marampa, branded “Marampa Blue,’ set sail from Freetown Port on June 16.

Located in the Port Loko District, in the country’s north, SL Mining is engaged in the exploration, development and production of a high-grade iron ore concentrate with >65% Fe content.

The company estimates that Marampa, permitted since 2017, holds about 1 billion tonnes of iron ore with a potential lifespan of 30 years.

Following steady growth until 2012, foreign direct investment in Sierra Leone was severely impacted by an Ebola outbreak.

The country’s economy currently faces serious challenges, the latest World Bank’s report shows. Those issues include falling government revenue as a result of low export and lack of investments in key sectors of the economy, including mining.

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