Sierra Leone: mining licence process map

26 June 2020

What is the process for awarding mining rights in Sierra Leone? What steps must the company and the government follow?

This ‘map’ presents this process as a step-by-step guide. They sheds light on a process that is often complex and complicated, making it more transparent.

This process map focuses on diamonds. However, it is important to note that this same process is used for other natural resources like Bauxite, Iron ore and Rutile.

Diamonds are found in about a quarter of Sierra Leone in the south-east and east of the country, where diamond fields cover 7,700 square miles. The main production areas are concentrated around the drainage areas of rivers in the Kono, Kenema and Bo Districts. In the Kono, Kenema, Bo and Pujehun Districts there are 1,700 artisanal mining licenses in operation.

Diamond exports were worth over US$ 78 million in 2009, accounting for 59 per cent of the country’s exports. The drop in the value of diamonds on the world market meant that the value of diamond exports decreased by 20 percent in 2009 compared to 2008.

In 2009, the government recorded exports of 400,480 carats (80,096 g) of diamonds, this included 143,620 carats (28,724 g) of industrial diamonds and 256,860 (51,372 g) of gem diamonds.

A new mining law in 2009 resulted in an increase of over 7 per cent of diamond production compared to the previous year. The new legislation enabled fees and royalties to be collected more effectively, which enabled an increase in diamond mining.

Sierra Leone mining licence process map

According to the Mines and Minerals Act of 2009, which is currently under review, natural resources belong to the national government, which holds these resources in trust for the people of Sierra Leone. This means that citizens should have a stake in the exploration of these resources and must also benefit from their proceeds.

As part of the licence application process, the applicant has the responsibility to engage the community where they want to mine, to get their buy-in and make the land available.

However, before this is done, the applicant must first inform the Mining Cadastre Office about the size and location of the land in question. The Cadastre Office then verifies whether the land in question is available.

This will soon change as a Geo-data Information System is being developed. With the availability of such information the Cadastre Office will be able to determine not only the availability of the land, but also the availability of the mineral that the applicant intends to mine. This will reduce the number of applicants that require exploration licenses, which usually go on for endless periods as they are not effectively monitored by the relevant authorities.

In Sierra Leone, the National Minerals Agency (NMA) is responsible for awarding mining licenses after the approval of the application by the Minerals Advisory Board and Minister of Mines and Minerals Resources appends his or her seal and signature. This is in consonance with the Mines and Minerals Act of 2009 and the National Minerals Agency Act of 2012.

According to the Mines and Minerals Act of 2009 and the national Minerals Agency Act of 2012, the Minerals Advisory Board approves a mining application, and the Minister of Mines and Minerals Resources finalises this approval with his or her seal and signature. Then, the National Minerals Agency is responsible for awarding the mining licence.

There are a number of mining licence types, which are issued for different time periods:

  • A Reconnaissance License is issued for one year and renewable once for another year
  • An Exploration License is issued for nine years maximum. This includes an initial period of four years and two renewals of three years and two years respectively.
  • A Small-Scale Mining license is issued for three years and renewable for another three-year period
  • A Large-Scale Mining license is awarded for an initial period of twenty five years and renewable for a further fifteen years.

For small- scale mining, the maximum allowable area per license is 100 hectares. For large- scale mining, the maximum allowable area per license is 125 Km2.

For the small- scale license, the application fee is US$ 1,000 and requires US$ 800 annual licence fee per hectare and 10 per cent of annual license fee for monitoring. The entire mining licence award process takes between 10 to 60 working days.

For large-scale mining licenses, the application fee is US$ 25,000, the annual licence fee is $500,000 USD, and 10% of annual license fee for monitoring. The entire process takes about 60 working days.