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Minister Kanu Resolves Longstanding Corporate Feud

Karamoh Kabba, August 26, 2009

Sierra Leone President Ernest Koloma on June 22. (Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei/ AFP-Getty Images)

The long-running disputes between the London Mining Company, African Minerals Ltd. (A.M.L.) and the Government of Sierra Leone (G.o.S.L.) were resolved amicably in a meeting at the Sierra Leone High Commission in London on Aug. 20. Under the able chairmanship of the minister of Mineral Resources and Political Affairs, Hon. Alhaji Alpha Bakarr Said Kanu, the parties reached a milestone consensus. "We are delighted that this misunderstanding has now been resolved and both our companies are fully committed to the development of the iron ore industry in Sierra Leone," Kanu said.

Minister Kanu, popularly known as Alpha Kan, is no stranger to negotiation and public speaking. Kan demonstrated his mastery in public oratory when he became the spokesman for the A.P.C. presidential candidate in the 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections. Many attributed the 2007 A.P.C. victory to Kan's high-powered oratory.

Such ability explains how His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma appointed a mining engineer as minister for Presidential and Public Affairs. Minister Kan then injected political steroids into the State House with his trio of programs: the Open Government Initiative, the Office of the Diaspora, and Attitudinal and Behavioural Change. He did not, however, survive President Koroma's 2009 cabinet reshuffle, as he had outgrown his position.

For Kan, it was a rotation not for non-performance, but to add another ministry to Kan's portfolio. He was then appointed as the minister for Mineral Resources and Political Affairs, sent to that problematic ministry to perform his Midas touch, just as in the London Agreement.

Before Kan, Mineral Resources was plagued by corporate feuds. The major one was the recently resolved dispute between the two extractive mineral industry giants who had thrown down the gauntlet over right of concessions in this small West African nation, holding the people in dire need of revenue from their economic activities to ransom. The A.M.L. and London Mining battled for who was the G.o.S.L.'s blue-eyed company worthy of attracting more shares in the New York Stock Exchange.

As new players in the ministry, Kan and his permanent secretary, Ambassador Wurie, a seasoned diplomat, found problems that they thought were thwarting mining companies' iron ore exploration interest in Sierra Leone. Kan and Wurie took the issue head-on and found a resolution.
The minister's brilliance in negotiation coupled with Wurie's diplomatic experience has contributed greatly to the recent success in the ministry. This breakthrough resolution in the extractive industry in Sierra Leone is a big step for government that will allow the companies to seriously concentrate energy on developing the industry.

Minister Kan's trip to London was the final touch to the background work done by the ministry, which has resulted in the agreement that both companies withdraw their cases from court and at the same time work amicably for the benefits of all parties involved, including the government.

In London, Kan reassured the extractive mineral giants that he "had the full support of government and that His Excellency the president was fully briefed on what was happening in London today, and he would be briefed on what would happen later." Kan pointed out to the feuding companies that they had not been able to work together despite the fact that their goals are common and that they are working in the same country. "Therefore, the meeting today in London was to break the 'jinx,'" he said.

In response, Mr. Timis informed the meeting that African Minerals was willing to relinquish the area that the Government of Sierra Leone wanted on the condition that the letters to the Financial Services Authority, dated May 21, 2008, and to A.M.L., dated June 6, 2008, each written by London Mining, be withdrawn.

To that end, Mr. Hossie stated that although there had been misunderstanding, in the spirit of a fresh start his company would like to work out a resolution. The meeting worked out the methodology for the companies’ retraction of the letters.

A G.o.S.L. press release reads, "In addition, London Mining and the Sierra Leone government have amicably resolved their long-running dispute in respect of the Marampa area."

Recently, through the mediation of Wurie, West African Diamonds and Thunder Ball have also settled their longstanding dispute. "The resolution of this dispute will allow the people of Kono to benefit immensely from a water supply project which Thunder Ball has promised," Wurie said. It is also noteworthy that Kan has engaged the U.S. government recently on a whole different track, repatriating 1,200 karats of rough diamonds trafficked from Sierra Leone without a Kimberly Certificate.

With regards to London Mining and the Sierra Leone government amicably resolving their dispute over the Marampa area, both companies are now ready to move forward in the development of Marampa, which will have significant benefits both to the local area and to Sierra Leone as a whole. Mr. Frank Timis, executive chairman of A.M.L., and Graeme Hossie, managing director of London Mining, stated in a press release, "We are delighted that this misunderstanding has now been resolved and both our companies are fully committed to the development of the iron ore industry in Sierra Leone."

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