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Sierra Leone - tighter controls on mining

2012-02-02 21:37

Freetown - Delegates to a Sierra Leone development conference on Thursday urged the government of the mineral-rich nation to strengthen controls on foreign investment.

Some 400 delegates from across the west African nation attended a three-day day conference which wrapped up on Thursday, looking at how to advance the impoverished nation's economy in the decades to come.

As massive investments in mining pour in to post-conflict Sierra Leone, the delegates urged the government "not to sign any new mining agreement without a comprehensive analysis of the proposed quantities and extent of the resources to be extracted".

In a statement the conference also called for relocation of local populations to be avoided and urged the adoption of sustainable exploitation, protection of local ecosystems and a national debate on land use to reduce conflicts.

President Ernest Koroma addressed the conference, saying: "We want to move to an era where Sierra Leone will be known for its achievement and not for its mistakes and tragedies."

An 11-year civil war ended in 2002 left the world with images of child soldiers and rebels funded by the sale of "blood diamonds" hacking off the limbs of their victims.

Koroma called on delegates "to utilise our country's natural resources, our democracy and our culture to transform the nation into a middle-income level country and an advanced economy within the next 25 to 50 years."

The country may soon become the largest per capita producer of iron ore in the world and this and other investments have raised fears over the resource curse.