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Sierra Rutile takes the lead in developing skills in the mining industry

Recently I attended the launch of Sierra Rutile Limited’s Localisation Plan at British Council. Over 40 years old, Sierra Rutile is the oldest mining company in Sierra Leone and is listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange with a share price of GBP 63.50. It is a company that I am very passionate about, not just because my father worked there for 12 years and Mobimbi was my 2nd home or because the current CEO is one of my closest friends, but also because their business strategies include substantial development of their employees, their community and by extension Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone’s Local Content Policy was published in May 2012. One of the main areas of the policy is for companies to develop Sierra Leoneans to ensure that they achieve senior management teams made up of 20% local staff, with 50% of their intermediate level and 100% of junior employees being Sierra Leoneans. Even though the current pool of skilled and professional workers in Sierra Leone does not allow for 100% compliance, companies need to develop plans showing clearly how they intend to comply within 5 years. Implementation of the policy has been slow and despite several discussions by stakeholders, the government has yet to release an implementation plan to the public. The Department for International Development (DfID) has advised the government not to enact it and has appointed consultants to review the current policy. The government, however, seems keen to produce a Local Content bill in the very near future. Most people I have spoken to support the government in this as they feel it would be easier to enforce if there are penalties for companies that do not comply.

Sierra Rutile’s workforce is 95% Sierra Leone nationals. Currently 79% of the employees in its skilled technical, professional and managerial categories are Sierra Leonean citizens and they aim to increase it to at least 90%. They have therefore drawn up a structured Localisation Plan, which is an accelerated staff progression process for high potential employees (HiPOs). The first set of HiPOs are 40 Sierra Leoneans who were formally assessed as having the capability to be rapidly developed as skilled technicians, supervisors and managers within the company. Sierra Rutile’s Localisation Plan will reduce the company’s reliance on imported knowledge and skills and will help it develop a sustainable workforce of Sierra Leone citizens. It will also help it meet its obligations under the Local Content Policy and the Mines and Minerals Act of 2009.

I believe this is a step in the right direction and being the only large-scale Sierra Leonean mining company with a Sierra Leonean CEO, it seems fitting for Sierra Rutile to take the lead and demonstrate to other companies that it can be done, as long as there is a willingness to invest in developing people. By developing skilled and trained staff, large companies in Sierra Leone will contribute to the expansion of the country’s technical and managerial pool and help distribute wealth by creating jobs within the private sector.

I hope companies like London Mining, African Minerals, Dawnus and Addax Bioenergy will learn from Sierra Rutile and set their Human Resource Managers the task of developing their own Localisation Plans. The Civil Service, which would also benefit greatly from a trained workforce, should invest in this area. This will contribute immensely towards Sierra Leone’s growth.

The author of this blog, Edleen B. Elba, is the Managing Partner of JobSearch, a Human Resource Management firm. She is a Chartered Global Management Accountant and Chartered Human Resource Analyst with extensive experience in developing and implementing human resource management and risk management strategies. She is passionate about Sierra Leone and believes that developing skilled workers would contribute greatly towards its growth.

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