— The move comes as the House is promising to properly scrutinize the deal in ‘the interest of the country…’
The House of Representatives has begun public hearings on the Bea Mountain Mining Corporation's (BMMC) restated mineral development agreement, which seeks to extend the Turkish company’s operations in Liberia to 2051.
The decision by the House, which is notorious for the speedy passage of investment agreements, comes after the Senate, within a remarkably short timeframe, swiftly approved the President George Weah administration’s request for an extension of the lifespan of the company’s concession.
Bea Mountain, a subsidiary of Avesoro Resources, got its first concession agreement for gold extraction from Western Liberia in 2001, with a lifespan of up to 2026.
However, the company, which still has three years before the expiration of its concession agreement, wants the previous agreement, which has already been modified, to be extended — promised to make US$520 million in its mining operation by June of 2024 while creating hundreds of additional jobs.
The House has, however, promised that while the company’s promise is interesting, it would ensure adequate public participation in the review of the restated agreement and proper scrutinization.
The public hearings, which the House Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Concessions started yesterday, will review the mining practices and environmental impacts of BMMC's operations over the past decades.
The committee will also assess the economic contributions made by the company to local communities, including the provision of jobs and infrastructure development. The hearings, the committee claimed, are aimed at providing a comprehensive understanding of the benefits and risks associated with extending BMMC’s mining agreement.
Members of the public, civil society groups and stakeholders from affected communities are expected to vigorously participate in the review of the restated agreement and share their concerns, opinions, and suggestions. The Committee hopes that the inclusive approach will ensure balanced decision-making regarding the extension of the mining agreement.
“The House will do nothing to compromise the interest of the people,” Rep. Clarence Massaquoi, the House’s revision Committee Chair, said at the open of the public hearing yesterday. “As such, the committee will scrutinize the mineral development agreement properly, involving the public participation including the community or county in which the concessionaires operate.”
The Committee, upon Massaquoi’s remarks, requested Bea Mountain to submit in a matter of days the Company’s list of shipments for the past six months; clarity on the number of Liberian citizens employed; the issue of local contents, as well as an overall performance report, among others.
The requested documents, according to the Committee, are key to their work and will serve as a guide as to whether Bea Mountian has been in compliance with its 2002 concession agreement.
The company, whose activities mainly focus on gold extraction, has been a significant player in Liberia’s mining sector, contributing to economic growth. However, the positive impact of these operations has been increasingly overshadowed by environmental concerns including land degradation, water pollution, and health issues. The House public hearing is however expected to present an opportunity for affected communities to voice their grievances and advocate for more sustainable mining practices.