Gold Rush Resumes at Gbanepea, Where 40 Died

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Flashback: Illicit miners at Gbenepea goldfield, Nimba County in following the fatal mining accident in 2019.

Stampede leaves two seriously wounded

Since about 40 persons lost their lives due to illicit mining at the Gbanepea Gold Mine in February 2019, the Daily Observer has gathered reports that the illicit mining has resumed, with a stampede leaving two persons severely injured. The two persons are said to be undergoing medical treatment at the Jackson Fiah Doe Hospital in Tappita.

Following the 2019 incident, which took away about 40 lives, the Government of Liberia and the Universal Forest Corporation (UFC) signed an agreement granting the company a five-year Class “B” License to operate the mine.  The company commenced work in 2019 and went into an agreement with the affected communities, outlining, among other things, the reopening of roads, building of schools and clinics, and a yearly payment of US$15,000 to the communities for other development programs.

John D.D. Wehyee, Administrative District Commissioner of Doe Clan, said UFC began work but could not find gold and, at the onset of Coronavirus pandemic, the company decided to suspend its activities.

After the company stopped work, community residents moved to the site and began digging, assuming that UFC had totally left the area.

According to Commissioner Wehyee, the rush to the goldfield was sparked by reports from a prospect mission by some men believed to be employees of the company, claiming they had come upon a gold deposit.

“The field is currently crowded with people from across the community carrying on illicit mining overnight,” said Commissioner Wehyee.

Commissioner Wehyee said the stampede has claimed the government’s attention, thus leading to the deployment of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberia National Police to the field, to prevent a repeat of the dreadful accident in February 2019.

“Currently, ERU are deployed in the field to stop illegal mining,” said Commissioner Wheyee.

Recently, the acting Statutory Superintendent of Tappita District, Loubayee Barlea confirmed on a local radio station that illicit mining activities were reportedly going on at the Gbanepea gold mine, but could not provide any clarity about who was carrying on the mining.

The Gbanepea gold mine was discovered in late November 2018, claiming the attention of thousands of jobless youth.

In 1994, mining activities were ongoing upward along the same creek in Ziah, a town sharing farmland boundary with Gbanepea and other villages nearby.

Some locals date the presence of the gold mine in the area as far back as the 1940s when Mandingo businessmen first carried out a prospecting activity there for minerals.

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