I am pleased to use the medium to inform a global audience that a wind of change is blowing across Sierra Leone, and it is blowing the country and its people towards a New Direction: The Right Direction.
Under this New Direction, we intend to pursue policies and programmes aimed at making Sierra Leone an even more attractive destination for mining investment.
We are committed to transforming the minerals sector to guarantee good returns on investment, while at the same time ensuring that our people derive maximum benefits from our mineral wealth.
Sierra Leone has a long history of mining, starting with diamond mining in the 1930s and gold mining before that. Exploration results have revealed several mineral deposits around the country, including gold, bauxite and rutile.
While production of bauxite, rutile, diamonds, and gold continues, several important exploration projects point to the wider prospectivity of the country.
We are world renowned for the quality and quantity of our diamonds. We have more than 20,000sq.km of diamond fields in the eastern, southern and northern regions of the country.
The largest diamond found in Sierra Leone was a 970-carat diamond dubbed the 'Star of Sierra Leone', and this is, to date, the third largest diamond ever found.
Four of the 20-largest diamonds in the world are from Sierra Leone. Just under a year ago, a local artisanal miner found a 709carat diamond in Eastern Sierra Leone, which now stands as the 13th largest diamond in the world. Sierra Leone exported more than 4 million carats of diamonds between 2010 and 2017.
We currently have large-scale mining operations for iron ore, rutile and bauxite across the country, producing millions of tonnes of these minerals annually.
The above, coupled with results from ongoing exploration work, indicates that Sierra Leone is richly endowed with minerals deposits, which offer significant opportunities for high returns on investment, and we welcome investors to explore these opportunities.
Plans are well advanced to conduct a countrywide geophysical survey, which will be followed by geological field mapping, to enable us to provide credible and reliable data to investors as a way of promoting investment in the minerals sector.
We are aware that it takes more than the abundance of minerals in a particular country to attract investors, and that investors require sufficient guarantees of a business friendly environment characterised by predictable laws, fiscal stability, transparency, security of tenure, etc.
That is why, under the New Direction, we have committed ourselves to key reforms, which include revising our minerals policies and laws, promoting transparency and guaranteeing security for our investors.
Our country recently conducted peaceful, free and fair elections in which my party, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party, successfully wrested power from then incumbent All Peoples Congress.
The peaceful nature of the election, and the smooth transfer of power, the second in 10 years, is in itself evidence that we have consolidated peace and democracy in Sierra Leone.
In the year 2000, we made history as the first country to adopt the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) to regulate the trade in diamonds.
The KPCS, which aims to eliminate smuggling and the trade in conflict diamonds, stipulates that all diamonds in the international market must be accompanied by an authentic KP Certificate from a KP member state, and Sierra Leone has been a fully compliant country ever since. We are a fully compliant country under the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), and we maintain an online repository, which ensures transparency in the licences administration and management process. Under the New Direction, we have committed ourselves to revising the Mines and Minerals Act to ensure that it delivers maximum benefits for our people, while guaranteeing profitable returns on investment, consistent with international best practices.
We shall also pursue policies aimed at value additions to our mineral resources with a view to generating jobs and additional income to Sierra Leoneans, and we are open to discussions with investors in this regard.
Let me therefore take this opportunity to assure you that Sierra Leone is undoubtedly the new destination for investment in the mining sector on the continent.
With a Government committed to creating a friendly business environment characterised by a fair and competitive tax regime; emerging human expertise tailored to provide high quality service and management regimes that meets international best practices, improved and multi-purpose and multi-user infrastructure, we welcome you all to get the unique experience of business development and expansion in Sierra Leone under the New Direction.