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Sierra Leone president fires deputy over mining

June 10, 2014

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Sierra Leone’s president fired his powerful chief of staff over how he negotiated a mining agreement and his granting of another company the right to log unlimited amounts of timber.

The statement from President Ernest Bai Koroma’s office late Monday said Richard Conteh’s negotiation of the mining agreement exposed the government to “potential loss of revenue.” Conteh also allegedly issued an order allowing one company to export unlimited amounts of timber instead of the 30 containers stipulated by the president.

Conteh is now under investigation by the police. The statement did not say which company was involved in the mining deal but the timber agreement was with Sierra Leone Limited.

Rich in natural resources, and especially diamonds, Sierra Leone remains poor as revenues are siphoned off by companies and corrupt officials.

As chief of staff, Conteh, who was previously finance minister, was charged with overseeing projects initiated by the president and monitoring the performance of the other ministries.

A devastating civil war between 1991 and 2002 was fought in part over control of the lucrative diamond mines.

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