The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Mines and Energy on July 22, 2020, presented another mining company company to the citizens of Nimba in an elaborate ceremony, which was held in the provincial capital, Sanniquellie.
Presenting the new company, the Deputy Minister for Operations, Emmanuel O. Sherman, told the citizens that the government has licensed a company known as “SOLWAY Mining” to carry on mining exploration in the north-eastern part of Nimba, precisely on two mountains in the Gbar and Zor Community Forest.
According to him, the period of exploration will be for three years and, if the investor or the company is satisfied with the exploration result in terms of profitability, then the government will reach a Mineral Development Agreement for actual mining activities.
“SOLWAY Mining has a legitimate license issued by the government to carry on exploration, while the ArcelorMittal Liberia also has a legitimate license to do mining of iron ore for 25 years,” he said.
There have been some controversies over who has control of the eastern part of the Nimba mountain range. ArcelorMittal Liberia has her concession and is currently mining Mount Gangra and Mount Torkadeh in the western part of the range.
AML has claimed title to entire Nimba range and has asked the government to revoke the license of SOLWAY Mining, but AML’s ownership claim created tension among the citizens of the affected communities and the county at large. A group, named “Nimba Education Guide”, planned a demonstration against the activities of AML, but the planned demonstration was later aborted, after some intervention from some elders of the county.
In his presentation statement, Min. Sherman said the concession area given to SOLWAY Mining does not fall under ArcelorMittal Liberia’s concession area and urged the citizens to cooperate and respect the agreement between the government of Liberia and SOLWAY Mining for mineral exploration.
“Government is under obligation to protect both the rights AML and SOLWAY Mining in their mining activities and neither of these companies has the right to stop the other from working, except the Government of Liberia,” he said.
Prior to the presentation ceremony, it has been insinuated in the county the that the Ministry of Mines and Energy will show the citizens the geological map of northern Nimba, demarcating the AML concession and that of SOLWAY. Contrary to this, Min. Sherman referred the citizens to the ministry’s website.
In the year 2009, the Forestry Development Authority and the citizens of Gbar and Zor reached a communiqué for the citizens from the two chiefdoms to manage and conserve their own forest from logging, mining, hunting and other extractive activities.
This stretch of forest extends as far as the borders with Guinea and Ivory Coast in the eastern part of Mount Nimba.
Today, this portion of the forest is known as “East Nimba Nature Reserve” and it was enacted into law in 2003 during the brief regime of former President Moses Z. Blah.
The head Community Forestry Management Body (CFMB) of Liberia cautioned the government to include the citizens in decision making in the mining sector as it was done by the FDA, where the community is responsible to manage their own forest.
The local authorities, headed by Supt. Nelson Korquoi, extended their thanks and appreciation to the government and vowed to provide all necessary protection to any of these facilities.
He told the citizens to be law abiding and stop any behavior that deters investors from coming into the country, but channel their grievances in an orderly and constructive manner.
SOLWAY Mining is a Swiss based company operating in several countries around the world, according to Mr. Theo Dennis, SOLWAY Comptroller.