Bea Mountain Mining Corporation (BMMC) has denied polluting the Mafa river, which serves about 10 communities, with “toxic chemicals”.
The Turkish gold mining company in a press release disclosed no abnormal conditions have taken place in its plant in Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County, the seat of operations.
“There is also no discharge from the plant. All protocols in keeping with Environmental Protection Agency guidelines and best practices are intact. However, we have sent a specialist environmental team to investigate the allegations of pollution in the surrounding water streams,” the release said.
It added that “In furtherance to the steps taken above, BMMC has also engaged an independent government-certified laboratory to collect samples from the areas that are reported to be impacted.”
The Bea Mountain response comes after the EPA commissioned an investigation into the allegations that it spills “toxic chemicals” in the Mafa River. The alleged spill, according to the report, has resulted in the deaths of some aquatic species, which could be seen lying along the river bank and surrounding bushes.
The Mafa river serves about 10 communities in Kinjor that depend on it for drinking, cooking, fishing, and other domestic purposes. There are hundreds of residents who live along the banks of the river — using it as a source of livelihood. Kinjor, which is within the Gola Konneh District, Grand Cape Mount County, lacks pipe-borne water or hand pumps for its thousands of residents who are now living in the unknown on grounds that they do not have any alternative water source.
EPA, Others to Submit
Meanwhile, representatives of the EPA, Ministry of Mines and Energy, and the Ministry of Health have promised to provide the Senate a preliminary report soon, regarding the alleged spillage.
The heads of the three institutions made the promise when they appeared before the Senate Committee on Mines and Energy on May 25. Addressing the Committee, EPA Executive Director, Professor Wilson K. Tarpeh, stated that a team of experts has been sent to the site to assess the situation and that a preliminary report from the separate government entities involved will be submitted on May 30.
Earlier, the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI), in a press release, disclosed that reports of the mass evacuation of residents from the affected area are a clear signal of the magnitude of social and environmental damages the chemical spillage poses to the affected communities.
LEITI then called on BEA Mountain to act swiftly and responsibly to halt the spillage and avert the repercussion, as efforts are being made to correct the situation, adding that rural residents rely on running water bodies to enhance recurrent economic and domestic activities.
Bea Mountain, a subsidiary of Avesoro Resources Inc, meanwhile noted that having notified the EPA of the incident, the company welcomes the EPA's response to dispatch a team on-site to investigate these allegations. The release said that the company remains supportive and will continue to cooperate with authorities at every stage “where needed.”
“In the interim, we will continue to support neighboring communities to ensure their safety as relates to the incident until clarity is derived from these investigations.”
The ‘spills,’ according to residents of Jekanlor Town, a town situated along the banks of the Mafa River, came to their attention when some members of the town had gone to fetch water during the early morning hours of Saturday.
At the banks of the river that morning, the Liberia News Agency reported, there were scores of dead fish and a dead dog in the water — a situation which prompted concerns and suspicion among the residents who had gone to fetch water. The residents added that upon the discovery made by the first group of people, they immediately returned to the town with the information, which prompted an investigation.
As a result of the probe, members of the town concluded that the deaths of the fish and the dog were not natural but could be the result of the spilling of a chemical (yet to be determined) in the river. In August last year, residents of Kinjor saw their complaint against European financiers of Bea Mountain’s New Liberty Goldmine accepted over allegations of water pollution and failure to live up to the agreement it has with affected communities.
The company signed a 25-year mineral development agreement with the government of Liberia in 2001 for the extraction of gold in the Garwula and Gola Konneh districts. In 2013, the deal was extended by another 25 years, taking it to 2038.