Bumbuna Dam, Sierra Leone

In a territory rich in diamonds, gold, iron, rutile and bauxite, the dam is feeding the mining industry rather than providing electricity to the population. The expression ‘When Bumbuna is completed’ become for Sierra Leone’s people a way to say ‘never’.


In a territory rich in diamonds, gold, iron, rutile and bauxite, the ideation of Bumbuna dam was accompanied by a series of promises made by the politicians in power: jobs for everyone and free electricity, tourism and economic prosperity, monetary compensation. However, the expression ‘When Bumbuna is completed’ become for Sierra Leone’s people a way to say ‘never’[1, p.15].  The first Sierra Leone’s nation-wide hydropower inventory was financed by UNDP in 1970, which identified 22 potential sites. In 1982 the Italian Salini Costruttori (locally known as SalCost) began the construction works for a dam co-financed by the World Bank, the Government of Italy and the African Development Bank.

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Basic Data
NameBumbuna Dam, Sierra Leone
CountrySierra Leone
ProvinceTonkolili District
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Mineral ore exploration
Specific CommoditiesGold
Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe project, situated some 350 Km from Freetown, consists of a rockfill dam with a semi-outdoor power station, located on the right bank downstream at the toe, housing two Francis Turbine units with a total installed capacity of 50MW; two 9 m. dia. diversion tunnels; two bell-shaped spillways. [4]
Project Area (in hectares)392,000
Level of Investment (in USD)1,100,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population6,146
Company Names or State EnterprisesSalini Impregilo from Italy
Relevant government actorsItalian Government (funding institution)
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
African Development Bank - Banque Africaine de Développement
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingSocial movements
International scientists
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Infectious diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The dam took 30 years to be completed and it serves the mining industries, while the vast majority of Sierra Leone's population lacks of electricity
Sources and Materials

[1] Mazzei, L., Scuppa, G. 2006. The Role of Communication in Large Infrastructure. The Bumbuna Hydroelectric Project in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone. World Bank Working Paper 84. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank

Government of the Republic of Sierra Leone and World Bank. Bumbuna Hydropower project: Resettlement Action Plan for the reservoir and dam area
[click to view]

[2] D’Angelo, 2014 Changing Environments, Occult Protests, and Social Memories in Sierra Leone. Social Evolution & History, Vol. 13 No. 2, September 2014 22–56


[3] Awareness Times. 2008. President Ernest Koroma, Afsatu & Co. Overcome

Other Documents

Bumbuna Dam Credits: Tewodros.Kebede (Panoramio)
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorAB - ICTA
Last update27/05/2017