Govt. Resolves Bea Mountain Crisis -10 out of 14 Counts Demand to be implemented

The impasse at Liberia’s biggest gold mining concession has ended with the Government of Liberia ordering the resumption of normal operations of the Bea Mountain Mining Corporation (BMMC) in Grand Cape Mount County, while the mediation team ensures implementation of the agreed resolutions after fact-finding investigations.

It can be recalled that operations at BMMC came to halt recently after citizens of Kinjor in Grand Cape Mount County clashed with Bea Mountain management and directly targeted the company operations. During this stalemate several assets of the company were left destroyed. It can be recalled that the communities presented a 14-count resolution comprising of several demands to BMMC. This paper gathers that a very few of the demands from communities are part of the company’s obligation as provided under its Mineral Development Agreement and other agreements including a land lease agreement in Kinjor. However, the other demands contained in the 14-count resolution are in excess of Bea Mountain obligations under its Mineral Development Agreement. Sources closed to the Government believes that these extra demands outside the company’s obligation are all the responsibility of the Government. For example, Laar and Manna are demanding the company to sign an extra MOU containing projects value over 50 million United States Dollars. It is also believed the lawmakers seeking reelections are supporting community pressure on the company to project themselves.

This paper has reliably gathered that BMMC has agreed to implement all aspects of the resolution to which it has obligation to perform. Sources closed to the company has hinted this paper that the company that over the 5 years the company has spent about 12 million on various community projects, some in excess of BMMC’s obligations.

The Government has rejected the community demand to replace the private security firm with locals, and to reinstate 13 workers that were dismissed by a subcontractor of the BMMC (DEKCO Mining).

According to a January 16, 2022 Press Release from the Ministry of Labor (MOL), the order for BMMC to resume normal operations came as the result of a Friday, January 14, 2022 mediation meeting held at the Labor Ministry in Monrovia in Monrovia amongst citizens of the community, the workers union, the Management of Bea Mountain, as well as lawmakers of the county; and the Government negotiating team headed by Labor Minister, Cllr. Charles H. Gibson, and Co-chaired by Justice Minister, Cllr. Musa Dean.

Other members of the government negotiation team included Minister Gesler E. Murray of Mines and Energy; Professor Wilson K. Tarpeh, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Minister Varney Sirleaf of Internal Affairs, and the Director General of the National Bureau of Concession (NBC), Attorney Edwin Dennis, among others.

Responding on behalf of the government mediation team to the 14-count petition that the citizens and workers of BMMC presented to the Government for consideration by the Bea Mountain Management, Labor Minister Charles H. Gibson said whatever agreement reached at the end of the intervention will be guided by a compliance mechanism which will include penalties for breach as well as the commissioning of a monitoring committee.

Minister Gibson noted that a committee will be set up with management and community representations, under the supervision of the National Bureau of Concessions, to work with the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) to access the records of BMMC from 2009 to current, to establish the basis of the 2% and what constitute it if that should have been paid to the community as exploration benefit. But research made by this paper shows that the requirement for 2% of exploration budget to paid to the local community is not applicable to Bea Mountain in accordance with Section 4 of the MDA under which BMMC is operating. In addition, the 2% requirement is a result of the Exploration Regulation promulgated in 2010. It was not in place when the BMMC MDA was first passed in 2001. Therefore, it is very likely that does not apply to the company.

The labor minister further disclosed that a technical committee comprising the EPA, MOL, NBC, the citizens and Workers’ Union to move in and verify the impact of the mining activities on the citizens and residents’ homes and other infrastructures.

The technical committee, Minister Gibson said, will be required to take photographs, conduct interviews with the citizens and catalogue all of the impact and effects on the community. They will also go to the underground mining site to establish whether there is sufficient safety mechanism in place and safety gears for the workers; and look at the laboratory to see whether workers there are not being exposed to harmful chemicals.

He assured the citizens and workers that the Ministry of Labour is determined to ensure that no casual workers will go underground. He said that effective immediately, all casual workers are now considered contractors at the company.

The government’s mediation team requested the Management of Bea Mountain to present the name of an Insurance Company by Friday, December 21, 2022, that will provide injuries and death insurance coverage for all those who go underground, whether they are Liberians or non-Liberians.

Speaking further, Minister Gibson vowed to ensure that those going underground are well paid, promising that Labor Inspectors will be dispatched to the company to investigate all labor-related issues outlined in the citizens’ and workers’ petition; and that a Labor Inspectorate will be permanently posted at the company to monitor the full implementation of the Labor law.

In closing, Minister Gibson told the Citizens of Cape Mount and the workers of Bea Mountain that President Weah fully supports the implementation of any scheme that ensures the protection and respect of the workers’ rights by investors operating in the country and especially to protect investors as well. The company believed to incur a loss amounting to up to 18 million as a result of the violent disruption and destruction against it.

Earlier, Justice Minister Cllr. Musu Dean maintained that it is the obligation of all parties to ensure that the operations of the company remain peaceful, noting that it is a win-win situation and as such, the use of “country devil” must be the last option.

He noted that the problem of local community versus investors are global issues and called on the citizens and workers to look up to the government for the peaceful and amicable settlement of the situation.

In remarks, the Management of Bea Mountain thanked the Government of Liberia for their timely intervention in ensuring that the workers return to work.

They promised to remain committed to all agreements and to cooperate with the government to remedy the situation.

For their part, the community through their leaders also commended the government for the role played in bringing them together to resolve the impasse.

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