Liberia: Protest at Bea Mountain Turns Deadly

— Lawmaker backs protestors, says because the company hired armed men

In a tragic turn of events, a protest erupted on Thursday, February 29, into violence at the Bea Mountain Mining Company in Grand Cape Mount County, resulting in the loss of two lives and leaving several others wounded. 

Tensions flared between officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) and aggrieved citizens, highlighting the simmering discontent surrounding mining operations in the region.

The protest, which initially began as a peaceful demonstration by local residents voicing grievances against the operations of the mining company, quickly escalated into a confrontation between protesters and law enforcement personnel. Reports suggest that clashes erupted as police attempted to disperse the crowd, leading to a chaotic and violent exchange.

Amidst the chaos, two individuals lost their lives, succumbing to injuries sustained during the clashes. Additionally, several others suffered varying degrees of injuries, further exacerbating the already tense situation.

The exact circumstances surrounding the deaths and injuries remain under investigation, with conflicting accounts emerging from both sides. While some witnesses allege excessive use of force by police, authorities maintain that they were compelled to intervene due to the escalating unrest and threats to public safety.

The Bea Mountain Mining Company, a major player in Liberia’s mining sector, has frequently faced criticism and opposition from local communities over issues such as land rights, environmental concerns, and economic disparities. This latest incident underscores the deep-seated grievances and social tensions prevalent in regions where extractive industries operate.

In response to the violence, the newly elected lawmaker of Grand Cape Mount County District #2, Mohammed Dosii, gave his blessing to the ongoing protest against Bea Mountain Mining Company.

He told residents in Gogoma, Grand Cape Mount County that they were unhappy with the level of bad labor practices at the mines and it was time to protest.

After the meeting, the protestors were secured to embark on their actions. As a result of that, several properties of the company including the newly constructed vocational school building were damaged including earth-moving equipment. 

The protestors later set ablaze  the home of one  Boakai Lansanah Taraferro, a citizen of the county.  He contested against Representative Dosii in the just-ended election of  2023.

On his official facebook page Taraferro accused Dosii for the arson attack on his home.

Prior to that, Representative Dosii, with a large following, arrived at the site on Thursday, February 29, following he had a meeting with citizens in the town, Golgoma camp, Matambo corridor. 

The chiefs and elders said they were protesting due to the presence of armed men as well as bad labor practice  at the mines.

Due to the seriousness of the protest, the police had to fire light bullets and teargas to dispel protestors.  After the meeting, a group of protestors went amok in the town setting three of the company’s excavators and other machines ablaze.

In an interview with the journalists at the scene, Rep. Dosii said the justification for the protest was because the Turkish company hired armed men.

On whether he was aware of the burning of equipment, he said, he only heard about it but said: “because the armed people are here to make our people afraid. Why will you bring armed people to  the community that you want to work in? That is a conflict,” Dosii told reporters.

Dosii admitted that he wrote to his fellow lawmakers to call for the withdrawal of armed men at the mines. According to him, there is no need to hire armed men  to be at the mines.

But his statement was debunked by some citizens from Cape Mount who said that BMMC was right to hire armed men to protect its facilities.

According to Amara Folley, a resident of Kinjor, the presence of armed men was necessary due to past experience in which BMMC facilities were destroyed.

According to him, approaching the general elections last year, the National Security team did an assessment of all potential Hotspots in the country and determined that the explosives magazines at Bea Mountain were a potential risk point.

It was realized that the presence of police was not strong enough to withstand any violent activities. So, the Ministry of Justice sought support from the AFL and the troops were deployed not only at Bea Mountain but also at LEC facilities like Mount Coffee. 

More importantly, Section 11.2 (a) of the Mineral Development Agreement  (MDA) signed between the Liberian government and Bea Mountain states that; “The Company may, directly or by contract with a responsible provider of security services, establish, manage and maintain its own asset and employee security and protection service for the purpose of protecting assets in the Production Area and in the immediate vicinity of other locations at which Company has or maintains property and assets through its own security force and to do so always in accordance with Law and rules and regulations promulgated by the Ministry of Justice relating to security forces. Such security force shall not bear arms and shall at all times operate subject to the authority of, and coordination with the Liberia National Police.”

However, clause (b) of the same section says: “In the event the Company deems it absolutely necessary to have armed guards for the purpose of protecting assets in the Production Area and in the immediate vicinity of other locations at which Company has or maintains property and assets, the Company shall make a written request to the Government. The Government shall provide armed guards as needed, which expense shall be borne by the Company.”