The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has fined Bea Mountain Mining Corporation, a subsidiary of Aureus Mining, US$10,000 for what the EPA described as “disruption of an on-going investigation into allegation that the company discharged acute toxicity of effluents into the Mafa River in Grand Cape Mount County.”
EPA Executive Director Anyaa Vohiri, who headed a team of investigators to the company’s operational site on Saturday, said “Bea Mountain Mining Corporation disrupted the investigation by blocking effluents from its Tilling Storage Facility (TSF) to the ‘point of compliance’ without notifying the EPA.”
She said the investigation into the allegation, which included sites verifications, laboratory analyses of water samples and technical conference with the company’s management was in response to several complaints by residents of Jikando, Gola Konneh District.
Madam Vohiri said EPA monitors received information from some of the residents of the area where fish were found dead within 3.15 km of the company’s Tilling Storage Facility due to the use of chemicals in her gold mining processes.
According to her, this indicates that ‘acute toxicity of effluents was illegally discharged into the Mafa River,’ which the residents said is a primary source of trade, livelihood and domestic uses.
Madam Vohiri said the residents also complained of loss of biodiversity along the diverted segment of the Mavoroe Creek as a result of overflow and the illegal discharge of ‘highly toxic effluents.’
She said although investigation into the matter was continuing, the loss of biodiversity along the diverted segment of the Mavoroe Creek as a result of its stagnation due to inappropriate stream diversion; and that the illegal discharge of effluents from the company’s Tilling Storage Facility into the environment without discharge permit from the EPA is a violation of several provisions of the environmental law of Liberia.
Madam Vohiri said, “Consistent with the standards and regulations of the agency and the permitting conditions of your permit, the EPA has determined that your entity did violate conditions 6.0 and 7.0 of the permit, part V Section 56 (1) of the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia, and Part III Section 21 (4) of the Act Creating the EPA.”
She therefore threatened that the company’s operating permit may warrant a suspension based on the unveiling circumstances.
“The EPA hereby fines Bea Mountain Mining Corporation the amount of US$10,000 payable into government revenue coffers through the Central Bank of Liberia within 42 hours. You are further directed to come along with copy of the notice of violation and the appropriate official flag receipt substantiating full compliance for the issuance of a clearance,” she told the company’s General Manager, Debar Allen, at a meeting during her visit on Saturday.
During the visit, Madam Vohiri also toured Jekando, the affected community and assured the residents that the EPA as a regulator would prevail on the company not to repeat what has happened.
She requested that a committee comprising representatives from the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, EPA, Bea Mountain Mining Corporation and the affected community monitor the situation so as to avoid future occurrences.
Mr. Allen did not register any opposition to the EPA’s position, but said that his corporation has put in place mitigation measures to avoid re-occurrence.
He admitted that the company’s technical people collected dead fishes from the river and disposed of them as well as collected water samples when the company was informed about the incident.
He disclosed that as part of the measure, the company has constructed two hand pumps to provide clean and safe drinking water for inhabitants of the affected community.
“The company has also connected Jekando with motor road in the aftermath of the incident,” Mr. Allen said.
Jekando Town Chief, Jimmy Kamara, lauded Madam Vohiri for visiting the community. He said prior to her visit, the residents had felt frustrated over the pollution of their river. The chief however also lauded the company for responding to their needs by constructing the hand pumps.
He then called on the management to expand the road it constructed to link the various communities.