Disenchanted residents want gov’t regulate the mining sector
Amid a plethora of illegal mining activities popping up all over rural Liberia, residents of Haindii, Faumah District, Lower Bong County, have called on the government to take charge of the mining sector to avoid aliens exploiting their waters.
The call from the residents came in the wake of the increasing illegal mining activities, which some foreign nationals have allegedly extracted more than 1,000 pieces of diamond recently from the bed St. Paul River in the District.
Philip Kollie, a cultural ambassador of Bong county with nine years experience in the mining sector, informed the Daily Observer that a bogus alien-owned ming company, which has been operating in the district since 2014. The alleged company and other surrogate miners, according to Kollie, have extracted more than 1000 pieces of the gem from the area without any development to impact the surrounding communities. This, he said, has made the locals “so disenchanted to the extent that some of them have called on the government to intervene.”
With such activities unfolding, Kollie feels that if the Ministry of Mines and Energy can take full responsibility of the sector by ensuring that its citizens are empowered, “Liberia’s economy will definitely bounce back.”
“Liberia is rich with natural resources like diamond, gold, and iron ore; but aliens come here and exploit our resources illegally to the detriment of the common people. Therefore, the government should take full responsibility, and put in place systematic regulations to guide the process instead of remaining dormant,” Mr. Kollie said.
He recalled that during the administration of former President Charles Ghankay Taylor, he (Taylor) focused on the mining sector, and because of that, things were not difficult in the country as it is deteriorating today.
“In spite of the raging civil war at the time, Taylor used to control the mining sector, which made him stronger,” Kollie recalled.
He also informed the Daily Observer that a man identified as Big Boy Konah, in 2017, found huge sum of unspecified pieces of diamonds in the same area, but there was nothing from the sale of the diamonds that impacted the lives of the locals.
“The residents did not feel its impact at all, and for such trade to continue without government intervention, is unfair,” Kollie cried.
Although the Ministry of Mines and Energy is yet to officially address the revelation from the Fuama District, a well placed source at the Ministry informed the Daily Observer via mobile phone that Mr. Kollie’s information was 90 percent correct. “That could be true, because that place contains real mineral deposits,” our source said.
Meanwhile, this newspaper has reliably learned that that up to last year, Big Boy Konah, extracted good pieces of gems from the region, “but this was legal, because he operates from a duly registered mining claim,” the Ministry official told the Daily Observer. Mr. Konah was, at the time, the Paramount Chief of Dekei, Fuamah District.
According to our source, “right now, the ministry has replaced many of its trained field inspectors, with what they call ‘coordinators’, who are not employed. So they (coordinators) are now seeking the interests of illegal miners by accepting whatever that are good for their personal pockets.”
Our source: “That’s the real thing which is slowly killing the mandate of the ministry. As we speak, the ministry has created (outside its mandate) the ‘coordinator’ position, making it difficult for the inspectorate division to fully exercise its ascribed duty.”
Kollie told the Observer that, over the years, government lost millions of dollars, because the laws in the mining sector are very weak, and those who are in the field representing the government are not sincere to the people.
He added, “they are misleading the government and the poor people; none of them want to tell the truth about what is unfolding in the mining sector, specifically in the field, but to only get personal benefit.”
Kollie further said that in 2013, when Fuamah District was officially opened for mining, many aliens began to illegally mine in the area without the government’s approval; some aliens find more than a thousand pieces of diamonds that could have helped to pave the road to Garlo and Tuma, but nothing was done up to date.
As a legitimate miner and an official with oversight on cultural activities in the district, Kollie also recalled that in 2014, he filed a complaint with the former district commissioner (Huston Gedlee) and former Fuamah District Representative, Korpo G. Barclay.
In his letter of complaint, Mr. Kollie noted, “We are gradually losing our natural resources to aliens, because of the increasing illegal mining activities in the District.” Up to the time they left their respective posts, Kollie added, “the two officials did not take any action to remedy the situation.”
He said the mining rules say: “dig hole cover hole”, which many companies have refused to do but have continued to use heavy machines, including the excavators to mine in the area. The “illegal miners” are using heavy machines to dig large holes that are left open, thus posing serious danger to the lives of the residents, especially the poor farmers.
“Faumah District has over 150 mineral deposits, but no development in our district. This pains my heart so much that I often ask myself, why all this disservice to our rural poor? But again, I have called on the government to intervene to bring sanity to the sector,” Mr. Kollie added.
He then encouraged his fellow youths and some of the illegal miners to go through the proper channels at the ministry to ensure that all sides get the necessary benefits they deserve in the mining sector.