By Tony Yayo
Director General of the National Mineral Agency, (NMA), and Julius Mattai have vowed to clamp down on illegal and smuggling activities in the mining sector across the country.
He made the disclosure recently while updating the public on some of the activities of the NMA.
The NMA Boss, further disclosed that the reason for launching this new activity is due to the fact that citizens are not deriving any benefits from the country’s mineral resources.
Dr Mattai recounted that smuggling in Sierra Leone has been blamed on artisanal miners and on small-scale, illegal mining operations in remote areas not regulated by local authorities.
He disclosed that after agriculture, artisanal mining is the second largest employer of labour in the country providing livelihood for up to five hundred thousand illiterates or poorly-educated day labourers.
Julius Mattai added that the Ministry of Mines and the NMA have embarked on several campaigns to arrest and prosecute those who illegally mine or sell diamonds.
Artisanal miners according to him ply their trade in the gravel pits and rivers in the employment of so-called “supporters”, licensees who provide them with tools and food.
These workers he noted are paid pittance for any finds they made while at the gravel pits.
According to him, it is these “supporters” who in order evade taxes and sell diamonds illegally to buyers.The latter are the local links in the supply chain to the foreign end user.