Liberia: Ben’s Town Residents Protest Over Quarry Blasting
Just a day after the Daily Observer reported that residents of Ben’s town were grappling with the effects of a rock quarry in their area, citizens staged a mass protest to express frustration over the damage to their properties and the deteriorating health conditions of their lives.
The company that owns the quarry, Fengshou International, a subsidiary of EAST International, has been in existence since 2022. The Chinese company has been quarring from a wide open pit to sell and supply the Robertsfield Highway road works, which residents claim has been disastrous to their health and livelihood conditions.
Before the protest, the inhabitants had complained that the explosives from the blasting had been causing damage to their houses.
The quarry carries out blasting operations two or three times a day, forcing residents to vacate their homes, during explosions.
“We want peace. No More blasting,” they chanted holding poster cards. The residents claimed that they have engaged the Environmental protection agency but to no avail.
“Beginning today, we are stopping them because there is no peace in our community, “said Nancy Kortee. Who spoke on behalf of the protesters.”Day or night, this poses a serious health threat to us.
“Our kids are getting sick every day due to the pollution of our drinking water, and our houses are being damaged by the blasting. Our people are now developing high blood pressure from the sound of East China’s machines, and we are hereby calling on the government to intervene promptly and relocate the company to an isolated area.”
The company, censured last month by the EPA for building a makeshift road through the Marshall Wetlands, is now being accused of property damage and threats to livelihood.
A tall black man projects a warning through his megaphone: “If you are in your house, come outside, we are about to blast.” He is the walking alarm system set up by Fengshou to warn Ben Town residents to leave the area during the explosions..
“If they sound the warning, and you go there, anything happens to you, nobody is responsible,” said Musu Tulay. She is not alone. Residents say, regardless of their condition —whether ill or disabled — once the alarm is sounded, they must leave their houses immediately until the blasting stops. This warning can be issued at any time of the day, and without prior notice.
Each blast emits billows of white dust that lingers in the air over Ben Town and its environs, several hours after the fact. Residents inevitably inhale and imbibe the dust, raising questions regarding the long term respiratory effects of the Chinese company’s activities.
Rock blasting is the use of explosives to break up large bodies of rock. It involves the drilling of holes in a rock mass at specific depths and spaces to maximize the impact of the explosive in fracturing the rock to the desired size. In Fengshou’s case, the intended size of the finished product is smaller crushed rocks, which its parent company, EAST International, uses as a base material for the expansion and pavement of the RIA Highway.