The Senate has ratified a request from President George Weah to extend the Mineral Development Agreement of Bea Mountain Mining Corporation (BMC) for an additional 25 years.
The expansion allows the company, primarily involved in the export of raw gold from Liberia, to continue its operations until 2046.
Initially expected to expire in approximately three years, the request for an early extension has raised concerns about the Senate's decision-making process as the company agreement was fast-tracked.
It, however, remains unclear whether the Senate thoroughly reviewed the previous agreement to ascertain if Bea Mountains met all of its commitments as stipulated before hastily passing the restated and amended agreement.
Under the new 25-year agreement, the company is expected to make an additional investment of US$520 million.
According to Senator Simeon Taylor, the restated agreement has made provisions not just for the Community Development Fund (CDF), but also Clan Development Fund with 50% surface rental
Taylor, who served as the Chair of the Senate Joint Committee on Lands, Mines, and Energy, which reviewed the company's request, is the senator for Grand Cape Mount County, the home of Bea Mountain.
“Considering all of the taxes and levies mentioned in the First Amendment to the Restated Agreement, it is clear and obvious that the country will accrue immense financial dividends as compared to the Restated and Amended MDA of 2013.
“There would also be a significant increase of employment of Liberians to 4,000 in the First Amendment to the Restated MDA,” the Committee said in a report, which copy was not made available to the press.
It was also pointed out by the Committee that the company, with respect to the first amendment, will be expanding its operational area from 485km2 to 537km2, “thus resulting in an increase in the surface rental fees.”
The company, whose activities focus mainly on gold extraction, has been a significant player in Liberia's mining industry, contributing to economic growth. However, the positive impact of these operations has been increasingly overshadowed by concerns over environmental degradation and the questionable distribution of wealth.
During the Senate session, where members voted to grant the extension, debates centered on the potential benefits that the corporation's continued presence could bring to the country's economy. Proponents argued that the agreement would provide much-needed revenue for development projects, infrastructure improvements, and job creation.
Nevertheless, critics argue that the Senate's decision is a missed opportunity to thoroughly scrutinize Bea Mountain's compliance with previous commitments and to address the negative externalities associated with the mining industry. Environmentalists have long criticized the corporation for its inadequate environmental management practices, accusing it of polluting water sources and damaging local ecosystems.
However, the Senate Committee noted that the passage and ratification “of the First Amendment to the Restated agreement was advisable.”
The Committee further noted that the company makes an addition of US$100,000 each to the four clans for clan development purposes through an MOU within six months after the ratification.
Senate decision came just two days after Taylor, on behalf of his committee, received a strongly worded petition from a group of Cape Mountainians, against the ratification of the amended Bea Mountain agreement.
In their statement, the group asserted that due to the significant role the mineral development agreement will play in transforming the lives of citizens in the county, improper regulations and oversight of the agreement will gravely affect their well-being.
“Bea Mountain and the Government of Liberia entered into an arguably hopeless Mineral Development Agreement in 2013 which has had no significant economic benefits on the lives of the people of Grand Cape Mount County,” a spokesman of the concerned group noted in their petition.
Still, the Senate proceeded to pass the agreement and instructed the Senate Secretariat to forward the document to the House of Representatives for concurrence.