Consolidated Rutile Ltd. in Sierra Leone

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

Mineral Policy Institute Case Study: Consolidated Rutile Ltd. (CRL)

CRL’s two big operations are on opposite sides of the world but both are highly controversial.

In Sierra Leone in West Africa, CRL owns half of the world’s biggest rutile mine. The mine has been closed since 1995 and the company has become embroiled in civil conflict which has left thousands dead and involved the controversial South African mercenary outfit, Executive Outcomes. After the Sierra Rutile holdings mine was overrun by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front in January 1995, the Sierra Leone Government hired Executive Outcomes, the mercenary outfit whose hiring by the Papuan New Guinea Government early in 1997 led to the downfall of the then Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan.

The mercenaries retook the mine and used it as a base from which they launched a series of intensive attacks against the rebels, using helicopter gunships and other advanced weaponry.

The Vice-chairman of Executive Outcomes, Lafrag Luitingh, says his company enjoyed the full cooperation and support of mine management during anti- rebel operations.

Its other chief operation is at Stradbroke Island in Australia, a major tourist destination and sensitive ecological and cultural site.

According to the island’s Quandamooka Land Council, of 93 Aboriginal sites surveyed in the 1960s along Strafbroke’s 30-kilometre eastern coast, only a handful have survived the ravages of mining. “There was everything from middens five stories high to stone quarries and camping places,” said the council chairman, Alan Perry, as he surveyed a midden cut in half by a mining road near Eighteen-Mile Swamp.

Lake Kounpee, a once scenic perched lake has been significantly damaged by sand mining. The lake’s water level has been dramatically lowered since CRL ruptured its base during mining in 1987. Other ecological disasters include rupturing the base of Blaksley Lagoon; a ‘sandslide’ which wiped out several hectares of wetlands and part of a recreation reserve; the flooding of Native Companion Lagoon with polluted water from a dredge pond; and the killing of native vegetation through salination from dredge pond.
Case Study from the Mineral Policy Institute Backgrounder #8: Mineral Sands