Sierra Leone: Citizens sue govt in regional court for alleged environmental lapses mining company; company comments

Author: Mining Weekly (South Africa), Published on: 4 September 2019

‘Sierra Leoneans sue government for alleged environmental failings at diamond mine’ 30 August 2019

Sierra Leoneans living next to the country's largest diamond mine are taking their government to West Africa's regional court for failing to protect them from alleged environmental lapses by the company that runs it, a subsidiary of Octea Limited. The complaint, filed to the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) court of justice on Thursday, alleges that the government failed to act when residents of Koidu, the largest city in the diamond-rich Kono district, complained about water contamination and damage to their houses from blasting at the mine.

…Octea, a subsidiary of BSG Resources, founded by Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz, did not respond to emailed requests for comment on Thursday. It has described the accusations in the March case as "baseless and without merit." The Sierra Leone government also rejects the complaints as unfounded. "It's our job to conduct regular evaluations of [Octea's] conduct in regards to the environment, and we have never found them not to be compliant," said Ibrahim Turay, regional representative for the Environmental Protection Agency in Kono District.

The cases highlight how communities in developing countries are becoming emboldened to use courts to pursue grievances against international mining firms. In the new complaint, the residents demand the government address their concerns and pay compensation "for their emotional suffering resulting from their degraded quality of life and health, and the instability and uncertainty of their resettlement status." The complaint also alleges that the Sierra Leone government failed to protect its citizens when security forces killed four people during protests against the mine in 2007 and 2012.

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Related companies: OCTÉA (part of BSG Resources)