SPIEF 2024
The 2024 edition of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) takes place from June 5 to 8. The theme of this year's event is “The foundation of a multipolar world - forming new points of growth”.

'There is Challenge About Traceability of Diamonds Under G7 Protocol', Sierra Leone's Minister Says

CC0 / / diamondDiamond
Diamond - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 08.06.2024
G7 leaders agreed in a joint statement to establish a "robust mechanism" for verification and certification of rough diamonds within the G7 by September 1, 2024, as an alternative to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme.
"There is a challenge about traceability" of diamonds within the G7 diamond protocol, Sierra Leone's Minister of Mines and Land Resources, Julius Mattai, told Sputnik Africa on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2024.
In December 2023, G7 countries announced import restrictions on Russian diamonds starting January 1, 2024. By March 1, restrictions also applied to Russian gems processed in other countries.
"We were never really consulted in any meaningful way when this alternative was set up. I know that in a country like Sierra Leone, nearly 26 to 30% of our diamonds come from the additional and small-scale mining sector. That was not taken into consideration," Mattai said.
He also noted that "there is a challenge about the traceability" of diamonds within the G7 diamond protocol. Russia accounts for 30-40% of rough diamonds, and it "has to be taken seriously," according to the minister.
"We are working with Russia. We are also working with all of the stakeholders to ensure that the right things are done right. [...] The industry needs to work to ensure that countries like Sierra Leone, which depend on the diamond industry as part of their economic tool or source of revenue, should not be disadvantaged," he highlighted.
A model holds the 'Letseng Legacy' diamond is shown at the World Diamond Center in Antwerp, Belgium, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007. The 493 carat diamond, the 18th largest in the world, was recovered from the Letseng Le Terai mine in Lesotho on Sept. 7, 2007.  - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 06.04.2024
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Continuing the talk about sanctions against the Russian diamond industry, the minister underlined that the imposition of punitive measures on countries that Sierra Leone trades with creates concerns for the West African nation.
He noted that as Sierra Leone exports about 80% of its mineral resources to many countries, the West African nation is dependent "when it comes to diamonds, when it comes to mineral resources."
"We want to continue to have a good relationship with Russia and any other country where there is mutual respect for our values, traditions, and rules of law, and make sure we have relationships that are well respected," he said.

Cooperation in Mining

On Wednesday, Mattai revealed to Sputnik Africa that Sierra Leone is negotiating with Rusal to open a bauxite mining concession on its territory. The West African country is also to hold talks with a Russian group of diamond mining companies, Alrosa, which has expressed interest in mining diamonds in the country, according to him.
Having a reputable firm like Russia-based aluminum company Rusal come in is going to add value to Sierra Leone's mining sector, the country's minister noted.
Both Rusal and Alrosa have experience, which is "enviable by the world," knowledge, and skills that could be transferred to Sierra Leoneans, he added.

"And it's not only these two companies. We are actually creating an opportunity, especially for the critical minerals, or what we call the energy transition minerals, for other Russian enterprises or entities to come in either at the exploration stage or the mining stage," he noted.

Sierra Leone is open for investments and "encourages Russian firms and anyone who is capable of actually adding value to what we do from a win-win perspective," the minister highlighted.
Sierra Leone's Minister of Mines and Land Resources, Julius Mattai, at SPIEF 2024. - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 08.06.2024
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At SPIEF 2024, the West African country also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Russian geological holding, RosGeo, on the extraction of natural resources on its territory.
Mattai explained that the MoU entails the following: The first is "to do additional geophysical survey, that's in addition to what was captured in 2021 and 2022, using two sensors," and "augment that with further geochemical surveys and geological mapping," he said.

"[This] will lead to extra resource quantification by recommending confirmatory drilling," the minister said.

The second one is to make sure that an ISO-certified laboratory is set up in Sierra Leone so that, during the process of exploration, all the samples that are taken can be analyzed to this international standard to be able to tell us the grade of the mineralization, Mattai stressed.

"It also involves capacity building, human capacity development. [...] We have young Sierra Leonean men and women who will come and study in Russia to ensure they have the requisite skills, knowledge, and experience to participate in the work that RosGeo will be doing," he revealed.

"One of the critical components or expected outcomes of this engagement is the sustainability of the engagement," the minister pointed out.
"[The other thing is] to ensure that after the end of the MoU or the activities envisaged by the MoU, Sierra Leoneans have the requisite skills and knowledge to be able to take their own development into their own hands," he emphasized.
Fofonin Appolinaire Houegbeadan, conseiller du président de la compagnie minière BK Mining Services - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 06.06.2024
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Cooperation in BRICS

Sierra Leone may one day become a part of the BRICS, Mattai underscored. According to him, BRICS provides an opportunity to cooperate with different countries and to find "synergies and overlap that can actually be leveraged to ensure you improve the lives of your people and also ensure that it brings peace and stability globally."
"Every country [in BRICS] has the laxity or opportunity to see who they can trade with. These relationships are not mutually exclusive," he noted.
BRICS offers the opportunity to "grow as a developing country," providing "sustainable, mutually respectful" cooperation, he highlighted.
"With Ethiopia and Egypt joining from the African continent, I think, it opens the door for so many other African countries as well. And I hope one day Sierra Leone will also consider that," Mattai concluded.