MONROVIA – In the wake of the National Legislature ongoing sitting to discuss the 2023 National Budget and resolve issues that impact the said budget, Senate Pro Tempore Albert Chie, while expressing appreciation to the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) for its collection efforts, is urging the LRA to pay key attention to the extractive industry which holds significant potential for revenue generation. The extractive industry includes mining, logging, and commercial farming in palm, rubber, coffee, and fishery.
According to Senator Chie, transparency and accountability in the extractive industry are key components to raising revenue for the Government while at the same time stimulating economic activities in the host communities and helping to lift local communities out of poverty.
Making the assertion on Tuesday October 18, 2022 at the opening of the final Sitting of the 5th Session of the 54th Legislature, Pro Tempore Chie noted that small and medium scale mining sectors (Class C and B licenses) have excellent potential as a source of revenue for the Government and to help improve the lives of the mining communities, but observed that the sector is in dire need of reform as a result of lack of order.
“Foreigners have invaded the sector, aided sometimes by local authorities in the mining areas. Some private sector actors with means also participate in the sector without paying their correct dues to the government. There is also allegation of the participation of some government functionaries and operatives.
“Besides gold and diamond, the traditional minerals that have been mined for decades, the artisanal or small to medium scale mining sector in the last few years have seen the offspring of the mining of heavy mineral beach sand which contains mineral sources for titanium, thorium and other rare earths. There have also been reports of small-scale mining of the mineral columbite-tantalite (commonly called Coltrane) in some parts of the country. What revenue from royalty on these minerals is available for budgetary appropriation?” Senator Chie wondered.
The Senate Pro Tempore who also has vast expertise in the mining sector noted that the Ministry of Mines and Energy is struggling to control the widespread illicit mining and the associated struggling mineral commodities.
“Only an inter-agency effort involving the security architecture and other relevant agencies, such as the Liberia Revenue Authority, with appropriate financial support, will bring the needed results; in addition to the revamping of the Ministry’s Department of Mines and the Inspectorate Division which are responsible for licensing, regulation and monitoring of the artisanal mining sector.
“There is some order in the large-scale mining sector, as production and export are easily monitored; but the host communities and workers often complain of unfair treatment.
“We mandate the Senate on Lands, Mines, Energy and Environment, the public accounts committee and the committee on internal affairs to look vigorously at the small to medium scale mining sector,” Senator Chie ordered.
As for the petroleum industry, the Senate Pro Tempore said not much is being heard from upstream petroleum activities managed by NOCAL and the LPRA.
“No news of bid rounds, no news of direct negotiation for petroleum acreages, etc. And subsequently, nothing for the national budget;
“The downstream petroleum subsector managed essentially by the LPRC has had its own regulatory and institutional reform and other technical issues for which its contributions to the national budget has not been impressive
“There has been a report of widespread mis-use of duty free on gasoline and diesel fuel by government agencies and institutions. The actual beneficiaries are not the government functionaries. There is a need to totally scrap this privilege for all three branches of government. The government will save millions of dollars for the budget. The Senate Judiciary Committee needs to look into this matter and if appropriate, prepare the relevant legislation or amendments to that effect,” Senator Chie ordered.
Regarding the logging sector, the Senate Pro Tempore called for radical reform, as the sector which is a high potential revenue earner has performed dismally over the last 17 years.
“Logging companies in yesteryears used to maintain feeder roads. These days, logging companies depend on the government to maintain the roads they ply. There is also huge potential in private palm plantations, but land tenure and host communities, concessionaires’ conflicts are some of the issues underpinning the productivity of that sector.
“The government, through its own resources and funds from bilateral and multilateral sources, continues to support investment in cash crops such as rubber, cocoa and coffee. Increased investment, appropriate regulation and monitoring are necessary to stimulate real growth in the sector and generate revenue for the budget,” Senator Chie intoned.
With regards to the fishery sector, Senator Chie said while there is extraction of fish and other mineral resources daily from the country’s waters, there are regulatory and institutional reforms going on in the sector and some level of assistance from Liberia’s international and other partners.
“We also note some level of assistance to our artisanal fishermen. However, over the last few years, contribution to the national budget from the fishery sector has been very minimal. We hope the reform and the investment will generate revenue for the government in the near future,” Senator Chie stated emphatically.
Concluding, Senator Chie noted that in its 13th report, the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (LEITI) listed many mining and logging companies that are not in compliance with the terms of their various agreements or licenses.
“We urge LEITI and other stakeholders to ensure, through their established procedures, that these companies are brought into compliance.
“During the break, we had a meeting with the Secretariat of LEITI to discuss their work program and understand their challenges in ensuring transparency in the mining, logging and other extractive sectors. We urge them to include the artisanal extractive sectors into their work programs. We also assured the Secretariat of the commitment of the Senate to support their work. We affirm and confirm this commitment today,” Pro Tempore Chie stated.