Sierra Leone: UK court rules against Sierra Leone government in its battle with SL Mining

Mamos Media

UK High Court on Monday dismissed Sierra Leone’s challenge of a 2020 International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) decision over claims by SL Mining after a dispute over its iron ore mining operations in the country.

Formal arbitration proceedings have yet to begin as Sierra Leone had sought to challenge the ICC’s jurisdiction.

SL Mining, a subsidiary of U.S. commodity trader Gerald Group, filed for arbitration in August 2019 and suspended its Marampa mine the following month, after a dispute with Sierra Leone’s government.

Monday’s judgment “conclusively” dismissed Sierra Leone’s challenge and upheld the partial award

Sierra Leone cancelled the company’s mining licence in October 2019. The government said the company breached its contractual obligations. SL Mining denied the accusation.

Sierra Leone challenged the ICC’s jurisdiction, arguing SL Mining should have waited three months from the July 14 2019 notice of dispute before commencing arbitration proceedings.

But the ICC arbitrators last year issued a partial final award concluding they had jurisdiction with regards to SL Mining’s claims.

Monday’s judgment “conclusively” dismissed Sierra Leone’s challenge and upheld the Partial Award, SL Mining said in a statement.

UK High Court Judge Michael Burton agreed with the arbitrators, saying the three-month period is set out for the two parties to have time to reach a settlement, but that the full period need not have elapsed before arbitration begins.

“As I put it in argument, it seemed to me clear that as at 30 August there was not a cat’s chance in hell of an amicable settlement by 14 October,” Burton said in the judgment.

In a release after the judgment, SL Mining said Sierra Leone has agreed to pay the company’s costs and will not appeal the judgment.

“The government has not lost the matter, we have just lost a jurisdictional issue, but the substantive matter remains,” said Sierra Leone’s Mines Minister Timothy Kabba.

“We still remain optimistic … It’s a process, we are committed to the process.”

Kabba said the arbitration proceedings will begin next month.

Source Sierra Leone Telegraph.

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