Liberia: EPA Probes Bea Mountain for ‘Contaminating’ Water Source

Dead fish due to alleged chemical spill in Grand Cape Mount.

--- As EPA says it is concerned about reports of alleged water pollution by BEA Mountain and has dispatched a team of investigators into the area to ascertain the facts leading to the reported chemical spillage.

The Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia has commissioned an investigation into the alleged spillage of “toxic chemicals” in the Mafa River, in Grand Cape Mount by Bea Mountain, a Turkish gold mining company.

The spill, according to the report, has resulted in the deaths of some aquatic species, which could be seen lying along the Mafa river bank and surrounding bushes in Kinjor, the seat of Bea Mountain operations. The Mafa river serves about 10 communities 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.

However, the EPA intervention, which is intervening three days after alleged chemical spills, is also concerned about reports of alleged water pollution by BEA Mountain and has dispatched a team of investigators into the area to ascertain the facts leading to the reported chemical spillage. The EPA release says it has “commissioned a team from the agency’s regional office in Tubmanburg along with scientists from its head office in Monrovia to immediately investigate the alleged incident. The team will be dispatched to the alleged site to ascertain the gravity of the pollution.”

“The public is urged to remain calm as we await a technical report from the team,” the EPA says. “The EPA strongly advises residents of the alleged affected communities to avoid usage of the water and not to consume any dead aquatic species especially fishes until further notice,” the release said. “The Agency assures the public that it remains committed to its core values of ensuring a clean, safe and healthy environment for all and urges the public to report any act of pollution across the country.” 

The latest incident comes four months after a Bea Mountain truck carrying 26 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, which has caused some of the deadliest explosions in human history, crashed by a roadside in Sinje, Grand Cape Mount County.

The truck, marked “TR-007,” was transporting the chemicals from Buchanan, Grand Bassa County to Bea Mountain’s industrial goldmine in Kinjor, Garwula District. Minutes after the accident, the company dispatched a team of workers from its chemical department, who teamed up with experts from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clear the scene of the accident. 

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.

The alleged 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. The residents maintained that the dog allegedly died as a result of eating several dead fish that were along the river due to the alleged chemical spill by the BMMC.

The information of the alleged contamination of the river spread like wildfire to the nearby towns along the banks of the Mafa River to deter them from using the river for their usual activities as a precautionary measure. However, there has been no report of any human casualty from the suspected poisoning of the water in any of the towns along the banks of the river.