A rapid increase in alluvial mining activities in the southeastern part of Liberia is creating concern among many about whether the government is actually in control of the huge gold deposits in that part of Liberia, especially Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Sinoe and River Gee counties, among others.
A Daily Observer tour of two of the affected mining counties, Grand Gedeh and River Gee, established that the extent of alluvial mining has evolved to the use of yellow machines to extract the gold.
In the mining camp of CVI in Konobo District, Grand Gedeh County, thousands of Liberians and foreign nationals are engaged in the mining of gold, using excavators to mine the precious metal. CVI camp, believed to have been sparsely populated during the 1960s, now hosts more than 10,000 people living in conjested quarters at the foot of a mountain about 4 hours walking distance from the Zwedru-Harper highway.
It is believed that at least a kilogram of gold is extracted daily.
But the questions many have asked are: Where is the gold going? Who are the buyers? How much revenue is the Government of Liberia reaping from southeastern gold mining? What mechanism has the government put in place to deter smuggling?
“We are just confused about the flow of the gold,” said one Elder Younge.
Referring to CVI, Philadelphia, and many other mining camps in the southeast, he said, “Our minerals are exploited daily with nothing to point to in terms of development in this region.”
In CVI alone, over 10 excavators were seen actively working. These excavators are owned by miners, either Liberian or foreign.
“We paid 40 grams of gold to an excavator owner for 8 hours working, and you pay before work,” said one Samuel, a miner.
“The use of heavy machines to carry on mining will likely deplete this area very soon, because the people are taking over 10 to 20 kilograms of gold from these areas weekly,” a cook shop owner in the camp explained.
Around River Non in Grand Kru, in the community called Joweiken, miners are using floating dredges to extract gold from the river. Most of the dredge users are Ghanaians, believed to be expert in alluvial mining brought into the country by Liberians.
Despite the huge deposit of gold in these areas, road connectivity and developmental initiatives remain a major challenge for the citizens in the region.
There are no good schools or clinics in any of the camps, where dozens of kids and school-age children are living with their parents.
There were checkpoints in and around the camps, manned by immigration officers and other paramilitary forces, including the Liberia National Police (LNP), but those living in the mining town camp said it is only traditional ‘devils’ that impose law and order whenever there is violence.
Gibrel Zoway, an agent of a local cooperative known as CVI Mining and Agriculture Cooperative Society, told this reporter that the cooperative is working along with miners to have the CVI community accessible by road.
“We rehabilitated the road from the main road to this mining camp without any help from the government, and we did this to bring relief to the inhabitants of this locality as well as the miners,” he said.
During the time spent by this reporter in the areas mentioned, there were no local government officials available. When inquired about, we were told that they had gone to Monrovia to hustle for jobs.
“Our efforts in this CVI area have created jobs for many destitute Liberians, who were on streets carrying out lawless acts and creating havoc for others.”