Western Cluster In Crisis -Bomi Citizens Protest – Sen. Snowe Raises Red Flag; MPW Stops WC Operations

MONROVIA – The people of Western Liberia had their hopes lifted sky high when they trooped in their thousands last June into Tubmanburg City to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of Western Cluster’s iron ore mining operations in Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu Counties. But a few months down the line, what appeared to be a silver lining for Western Region and its people now seems nothing but a pipe dream, as information available to The Analyst point to the whole WC deal and the company’s operations running contrary to the agreement signed with the Government of Liberia.

According to our Western Region correspondent, the citizens of Bomi have been protesting the movement of Western Cluster trucks moving iron ore through Tubmanburg City to the Freeport of Monrovia.

The citizens’ ire was provoked by what they say is the complete breach of the terms of the agreement between Western Cluster and the Government of Liberia, specifically the aspect that deals with the movement of iron ore by trucks, as well as the environmental risks, and the dangers posed by WC trucks moving unrestrictedly at any hour on the highway, thus making the Bomi-Montserrado corridor vulnerable to road accidents. The citizens especially decried the company’s complete disregard for rehabilitating the damaged road while their trucks continued to move iron ore uninterruptedly.

“This is too much. What these people are doing here, if it was in places like Nimba, long ago they would be compelled to change direction. But I don’t blame them, I blame our leader Edwin Snowe who presented these people to us as angels,” says Jah-Zonbohn Fulley from Malima Gorgblah, who spoke with our reporter.

Venting his frustration on behalf of the western region, a youth based in Tubmanburg but hailing from Gbarpolu City said Western Cluster is about to get a rude awakening. “We are prepared to escalate our protest actions if these people fail to fix our road as they promised in the contract. Look at the highway. Nothing has changed. Where is the money they were supposed to pay to fix the highway? These people are stealing from us, and our officials are doing nothing to stop them,” says Simeon Hills.

Sam Jackson’s Gripe

Against the backdrop of protests and subsequent unspecified actions from the Western Region citizens over Western Cluster’s alleged contractual breaches, accusations have started flying in the direction of Bomi County Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe, indicating that he is in cahoots with the iron ore firm to exploit Liberians.

Samuel P. Jackson is a renowned Liberian economist who is well connected to the Western Cluster deal from his past dealings with Elenito that sold its shares to the current owners of the western region iron ore operations.

In a Facebook post that he would later delete from this wall, Sam Jackson is on record for accusing Senator Snowe of offering to pay him US$10K in hush money to allow Snowe and his “cartel” to truck iron ore from Bomi to the Freeport of Monrovia.

“Dear Edwin Melvin Snowe Jr. You blocked me on WhatsApp, so I am constrained to publish this letter. This is a matter two adults could’ve solved as men. But you are an overgrown child who did not mature enough and thrusted yourself in leadership roles that you are not prepared for.

“On or about May 27 in 2022 you called me promising me 10k as hush money to allow you and your cartel to truck iron ore from Bomi to the Freeport of Monrovia. If I just kept quiet. I sent you a memo to forward to your friends at Vedanta, the multi-billion-dollar Indian iron ore company. They had revenues of $26 billion last year with hundreds of billions in assets. Look at the price of their shares on the stock market.

“I sent you the following message to your inbox this morning but you had already blocked me. Since you want a public spectacle, I will give you one.

“Good morning Edwin. Unlike you, I don’t keep grudge. I have little interest in power or money.    If I did, none of you would come close to me. You dropped out of college in the US in 2003 to take the position of MD at LPRC. That’s your road to wealth, fame and political power.

“My friendly advice to you. You are on the defensive on the Western Cluster. This could destroy you politically and expose you to criminal liabilities even if as you claim did nothing wrong. Trucking iron ore through populated areas is a grave risk. Environmentally. Socially. The long-term consequences are mostly unknown. You could be 70 years old and be exposed since you were in the fire front.

“Go back to the memo I sent you on May 27. My education is my biggest asset, I was trying to help you all but you, as always, want a quick deal. Your people don’t need a Bassa man like me to tell them about the dangers and associated risks. That young man held his own. I know Bomi citizens are gearing to take this to higher levels. Global Witness. The US Embassy is watching.

“If you think I am your enemy you are dead wrong. This trucking of ore, if not fixed with the appropriate mitigation measures could cost us Bomi, Cape Mount and Gbarpolu in the elections,” Sam Jackson stated in his post which he would later delete.

Snowe’s complaint
In the wake of Sam Jackson’s social media rant against Senator Snowe regarding the Western Cluster’s alleged operational breaches, this paper is reliably informed that the Bomi County legislator actually wrote the Ministry of Public Works in October last year complaining of a “deliberate violation of Section VII A&B of the Road Permit that talks about Revocation, and Immediate Suspension” by Western Cluster, which prohibits the trucking of ores in the City Limit of Tubmanburg, Bomi County, thereby worsening the already deplorable condition of the road and preventing commuters from using said road as a result of its current condition.

According to Senator Snowe in his October 20, 2022 letter to Public Works Minister Ruth Coker-Collins, a copy of which is the possession of this paper, the action from Western Cluster Limited is unhealthy, “which has caused our people protesting in recent days after several warnings preventing said violation proved futile”.

“In view of the concern, this a formal complaint as regard to said component of the Road Permit, and I therefore request the Minister to apply the necessary penalties on Western Cluster Limited to avoid its continued action,” Snowe stated authoritatively in his letter.

In reaction to Senator Snowe’s letter, the Ministry of Public Works on October 24, 2022 cited the head of Western Cluster Limited, Mr. Chetan Savant, for a meeting on October 27, 2022 to investigate the Bomi Senator’s complaint.

As a result of the October 27, 2022 meeting between the Ministry of Public Works and Western Cluster, this paper is also reliably informed that the Government of Liberia suspended Western Cluster’s permit for all mining operations in Bomi County.

“In our meeting held on October 27, 2022, it was established that Western Cluster Limited had begun small scale operations including the trucking of iron ore along the St. Paul Bridge to Tubmanburg highway. This has led to a deplorable condition of the road and caused the citizens of Bomi County to protest.

“To protect the safety and accessibility of the corridor, your Road User Permit is suspended until substantial road repairs are completed.

“You are advised to adhere to the Road Rehabilitation MOU with the government. The contractor has been instructed to begin repairs as of November 2, 2022 (see work schedule attached). Once the corridor is pliable and technically compliant to the Ministry’s standards, your entity will be informed to resume operations,” the Ministry of Public Works stated in its letter to Western Cluster.

The RUP Violations
The Ministry of Public Works on June 20, 2022 issued to Western Cluster a Road User Permit (RUP) guiding the company’s operational movements. According to investigations conducted by this paper, Western Cluster had been in violation of a good number of the RUP regulations.

According to Section E (6) of the RUP, “the holder shall only operate trucks on the road between 7:00 pm and 6:00 am each day”. This particular regulation, our investigation found, had not been adhered to, as Western Cluster trucks conveying iron ore to Monrovia were seen plying the Bomi highway at unregulated hours.

Government sources who spoke with this paper on conditions of anonymity said Western Cluster is in violation of nearly all of the RUP terms and conditions set forth, to include the payment of US$4.5 million to the government to accommodate the holder’s use under the RUP, among others.

Reacting to Mr. Sam Jackson’s social media post, Senator Snowe said at no time did he ever offer Mr. Jackson or anyone else a cent for or on half of Western Cluster.

“As Senator of Bomi I have no authority to authorize or prohibit any individual or entity from operating in Liberia. If the Government of Liberia has issues with the operations of Western Cluster, the government should take the appropriate action.

“I will stand in support of the citizens whenever they deem it fit to protest against anything they feel is not in the best interest and that includes Western Cluster,” Snowe informed this paper when contacted to provide his side of the story.

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