Conflicting Laws Undermine Better Livelihood for Local Community Dwellers

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Isaac F. Nyanttee, Jr. presenting CENTAL's research report on mining

Research conducted by the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) in three counties including Bong, Gbarpolu and Nimba has shown that laws governing land and mining in the country continue to be counterproductive to the growth and wellbeing of citizens, especially local community dwellers whose livelihood is reliant on the land that they inherited from their forefathers.

At a one-day Validation Session under its Land Rights and Mining Project at the Corina Hotel in Monrovia on January 27, 2021, CENTAL’s research findings presented by its Senior Program Officer, Isaac F. Nyanttee, Jr., indicated that Liberia’s Mining Law of 2000 and the Land Right Act passed and signed into handbill in 2018 lack coordination and collaboration to meet the interest of the Liberian people.  

“This problem could also be addressed by updating the laws, for example the Minerals and Mining Law, to reflect mining-related provisions contained in the LRA.  For example, community’s consent is guaranteed in the LRA but not guaranteed in the Mining Law. Updating the law and fostering coordination amongst relevant agencies would lessen the risk that laws go unimplemented to the detriment of communities,” Nyanttee said.

The findings from the research in the three counties point to diversified issues relating to land and mining laws in Liberia and how these laws are affecting local communities and their inhabitants in various ways.

According to the research findings, majority of respondents (57.3%) indicated that they have heard about community land rights including that communities can now own land; that communities can get legal documents (deed) for their land; that there is private land, public land, government land, and customary land; that communities should be engaged by companies before operations.  The report, on the other hand, indicated that a good number of respondents (42.7%) indicated having not heard about community land rights.

Further in the findings, 80.8% of respondents are aware that mineral resources belong to the Republic and not customary or private land owners, while at the same time 95.2% of respondents have not heard about Ministry of Mines and Energy’s online repository of mining licenses; an indication that a lot of Liberians in mining communities who have titles to land do not know what licenses companies are using to mine minerals.

It further notes that 62% of respondents spoke of being aware that communities are required to establish a Community Land Development and Management Committee as prescribed by the Land Rights Act, while 37.8% of respondents do not know about this requirement.  According to the research, 64.8% are aware that Liberians have the right to obtain licenses to mine minerals while 35.2% are not.

On information about mining-related laws, 53.9% said they have heard about the Land Rights Act, 17.8% have heard about the Environmental Protection Management Law, while 16.9% have heard about mining procedures.  29.9% said they have not heard about any of these laws while 81.3% of respondents have not participated in consultative meetings called by the government regarding the awarding of mining licenses with only 18.7% claimed to have participated.

Also, 81.9% of those surveyed have not participated in consultative meetings called by mining companies regarding operations, 18.1% participated in said meeting, and 74.0% of respondents not aware of cases where companies have engaged with communities before conducting mining activities.  26.0% claimed to know such cases.

The report also unveiled that companies primarily engage community leaders on mining activities leaving out the local dwellers who inhabit the land, and chiefs and elders make decisions on behalf of communities with the inhabitants totally unaware of what will happen to their land.

Regarding actions being taken to address the negative impacts of mining, 60.7% of respondents do not know what actions to take to combat the negative impacts of mining; 22.6% formally reported a case to the local authority, and 13.2% raised awareness about an issue.  68.9% said they have no knowledge on how to report mining-related cases for redress.

CENTAL quoting the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) 10th and 11th reports on mining indicated that the sector contributed 60% of the US$53.84 million generated from the extractive sector in fiscal year 2016/2017, accounting for 54% of the 68.98 million generated from the extractive sector in fiscal year 2017/2018.  CENTAL said the extractive sector has a huge potential to contribute to economic growth and development through increased revenue to the government, creation of economic opportunities, shared infrastructure, and accrual of benefits to mining-affected communities; however, communities continue to decry limited involvement in mining processes.

The integrity institution says while the Land Rights Act is there giving community dwellers the right to land, the Mining Law too does not recognize citizens’ involvements in discussion surrounding mining on the land which is an infringement against the right given by the LRA.  According to the Land Rights Act calls for free prior consent, but the granting of exploration license to a company to operate does not consider the FPIC.

CENTAL further noted that activities by mining companies across the country are not monitored and there is limited law enforcement.

The validation gathering by CENTAL was attended by representatives of civil society organizations and government agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA Assistant Manager for Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), Daoda S. Carlon, said the research findings were correct as there are instances to substantiate their validity.

Carlon said the Mining Law of Liberia does not allow the President, the Vice President and officials of government to own a mining company, but mining agents are controlled by key government officials in the country thus reflecting conflict of interest.  He also said laws and policies made are only in Monrovia and the government is not taking them to the ordinary people who are affected by them.

Randall M. Makor of Center for Research and Sustainable Development observed that more research had been done and reports published about the issues under discussion, but there has not been action taken to correct any of the wrongs, thereby enhancing environmental pollution, illicit mining, and amassment of undue wealth by government officials to the detriment of the ordinary community dwellers whose lands are damaged.

John F. Kelvin of Rights and Rice Foundation intimated that affected communities in mining areas have remained victims of danger and land degradation while companies had gotten wealth benefiting elite people.  He said because social development fund from mining has over the time been politicized, affected communities have remained impoverished with nothing to boast of after mining.

Samuel T.K. Wilson, Director of Mines at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said the Mining Law of 2000 is archaic and new law is underway to come to have reconciliation with existing land laws in action, but it will take some time to have it out.

The research undertaken by CENTAL was sponsored by the German Development Corporation group GIZ.  Its Project Advisor, Mr. Samuel J. Summerville, urged the civil society groups not to give up hope in flagging out problems affecting mining communities.  Mr. Summerville said his institution was aware of the problems and there is a need to have public debates on the issue to ensure that the laws are effective to work for the greater number of Liberian people.   

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