The Environment Protection Agency, Sierra Leone (EPASL) has on Thursday 22nd August 2019, suspended the operations of five companies engaged in quarrying activities within the Okra Hill area. The companies are: Great Africa Sierra Leone Limited; Xingwang Business Quarry; Haoxin Quarry; First Investment International Company and Afroaz International (SL) Ltd.
The suspension of operations was due to the refusal by the aforementioned companies to either renew their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) License or complete the process for the acqusition of an EIA license. The Environmental Compliance and Enforcement department of the Agency issued the enforcement notices to each of the companies in accordance with section 53 of the EPA Act and warned that no operations should be undertaken by the affected companies until they have fully complied with the EPA Act and that they have one month to do so. According to the Team Lead, Mr Lamin Tarawalie who is the EPASL Deputy Director of Field Operations and Extension (FOE), the suspension of operations of these companies was geared towards ensuring that those whose activities impact or have a likelihood to impact the environment are effectively monitored to ensure a quality of environment that is safe for all. He further stated that the EPA remains supportive of investors but that investment must not be at the expense of the environment.
The acquisition of an EIA license is a condition precedent. In other words, companies that are engaged in any of the activities slated in the First Schedule of the EPASL Act 2008 as amended in 2010 must first of all acquire their EIA license prior to the commencement of their operations. Under Sec53 of the EPA Act, the EPA has the power to suspend or shut down the operations of companies that are in violation of the Act. The acquisition of an Environmental Impact Assessment License is crucial, as it provides the Agency an opportunity to scrutinize the activities of companies and determine their level of compliance with the EPA Act.