Africa: Sierra Leone’s cancellation of mining licence raises concerns about a resurgence of resource nationalism across the continent

Author: Henry Sanderson, Harry Dempsey & Neil Munshi, Financial Times, Published on: 15 October 2019

‘Sierra Leone mine dispute raises fears of resource nationalism’ 9 October 2019

Sierra Leone’s abrupt cancellation of an iron ore mining licence this week has raised concerns about a resurgence of resource nationalism across the continent.  The action is the latest in a string of disputes between governments and mining companies in Africa, which is home to rich resources of iron ore, copper, gold and diamonds.

A number of African governments are working to right what many see as historic imbalances in favour of foreign companies rooted in colonialism and to readdress contracts signed at earlier stages of certain economic cycles. Commodity prices have rebounded since the end of the China-driven boom in 2015, with increased use of metals, including cobalt and copper, in renewable energy technologies such as batteries and wind turbines. 

…The narrative that a country can ‘regain control’ of its resources is a powerful one,” said John Childs, a lecturer specialising in resource nationalism at Lancaster University… When Foday Rado Yokie, Sierra Leone’s mining minister, took office in July, he said the country had “suffered for far too long” from “not benefiting from the mineral wealth of the country”. The country banned Gerald’s exports of iron ore a month later, and Mr Yokie ordered a review of all mining licenses, vowing to cancel any that were not in the interest of the country. 

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Related companies: Acacia (formerly African Barrick Gold) Barrick Gold Glencore Ivanhoe Mines (now Turquoise Hill Resources) Konkola Copper Mines (joint venture Vedanta Resources, Zambia Copper Investments & ZCCM Investments)