Illegal Miners Exploiting Maryland Communities -As Citizens Cry out

By: Henry N. Kolernky, In Harper Maryland County

MONROVIA: Reports coming out from some communities in Maryland County, such as Gbeken have it that several Chinese are engaging in illegal mining activities in the area and identified one of the companies being operated by the Chinese as Soar Mining Company which has been exploiting natural resources in District #3, even as they alleged that the Asians are not operating wiwth the requisite documents as stipulated by the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

The Analyst has confirmed through its reporter said miners are being inhabited in tanks erected by the Chinese and the residents attributed to the influx of the illegal miners in the forest to the lack of the presence of law enforcers and local authority to keep the miners at bay and being powerless to stop the miners, the locals have resorted to negotiate with the illegal miners in an attempt to get some benefit from their resources.

The locals explained that on several occasions, the Chinese mining in the area apologized for violating community tradition, after which locals  were forced to enter a social contract with the miners to atleast get some returns from their own resources. They noted that during one of the negotiations, they demanded the Chinese mining company to pay 100,000 Liberian Dollars monthly and 2,000 United States Dollars (US$2000) respectively every six (6) months for Service Rental Fees, but such an agreement is yet to be reached and signed as the affected community legal backing.

“As we speak, day and night, new Chinese Nationals are coming in and out; we don’t know whether they are coming with paper from the government, we don’t know, but we think our own people are the problems,” an aggrieved Gbeken citizen narrated.

Our reporter observed that the Chinese are apprehensive about media coverage to the extent a Liberian serving as a manager of one of the Chinese companies said a Chinese national who works as a field manager identified as Chin, nearly got into a fist fight with a journalist for photographing him and demanded that the photo taken should be deleted from the journalist’s phone.

Despite the claim of the illegal mining, the Chief of Gbeken, Johnson Pokolo said the community and the Soar Mining Company are yet to sign a legal document but the company is still mining presently. He explained that they had two miners whose names he didn’t disclose in a claim that is now being occupied by Soar Mining Company. He said the two miners later invited Soar Mining for a subcontract but after the contract ended, they were surprised to see the company still operating in the field.

“So we halted their operation, and they came to apologize to us, but while apologizing, they asked the town for claims, and we did it with conditions that they should provide other benefits, which they are yet to do. We are worried because our communities are not benefiting from the Chinese, though they have promised to rehabilitate our roads,  pumps, build seven class room elementary school, and give us other benefits, but we are not seeing their promises coming to reality”, Chief Pokolo said.

He said due to the company’s failure to meet its obligations, the youth and women of the town brought the operation of the town to a standstill but with the intervention of Karluway’s concerned youths, they were given a grace period to work.

“Let me say, we locals of the town are suffering due to outside forces; though the town is blessed with these resources, we are not getting anything as a people because companies visiting our area claim to be sent by our government or our representatives and Senators. But since we don’t want to fight the government, we will allow them, but we are not getting anything from our government and not to even talk about those companies that sometimes come to operate,” Chief Pokolo alleged.

The Chief further explained that local leaders are happy to work with the Soar Mining Company provided if it is willing to address the needs of the citizens.

Speaking on behalf of the company, the Liberian manager, Nyemah Sheriff, stressed that they have not received other permits, including EPA, because they have not begun real mining activity in Gbeken.

Despite the presence of seven excavator machines and Chinese seen in the mining site, Mr. Sheriff insisted they are not mining but engaged in prospection, adding that once prospection is done, they will obtain all necessary documents. Sheriff told reporters that Soar Mining Company started prospecting in February, but they have not received much information about whether the place is productive due to other pressures and demands from community inhabitants.

“Yes, we came here in February, but since then, we have not started normal work due to other pressure from the town and local county authorities,”  Sheriff narrated.

The residents also disclosed that they discussed a verbal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the company that included the construction of an elementary school, paying three volunteer instructors, paving roads to the town, monthly dues, and erecting hand pumps, among other things. However, a copy of the MOU, which the Chinese company has yet to officially confirm, was sent to Senator J. Gbe-bo Brown for review before approval.

Meanwhile speaking in an interview with our Maryland county correspondent, the President of the Karluway Concerned Youth Gabriel S. K. Musu narrated that based on an instruction from the office of the Mines and Energy Minister,  the Assistant Superintendent for Development Fred Bartoe was told to shut down the mining activities until all of the necessary things are done.  The youth Leader also told our correspondent that the Soar Mining Company notarized the drafted Memorandum of Understanding without the consent of the affected community (Gbeken) something he said the miners’ legal status of being in the Karluway forest is questionable.

“As far as we are concern the Chinese mining operation was shot down on Monday yesterday morning when we went to Gbeken to instruct our people”, Musu said.

Despite the company yet to approve the MOU, the citizens are optimistic that once it is addressed, they will enjoy their resources. As it stands now, the company’s presence is not making any positive impact but rather destroying the forest and other biodiversity or species inhabiting the land.

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