-Former BMC Staff asserts
A former Staff of the Bong Mining Company, civil engineer Christoph Fraenkel, says Liberians benefited from richly the company through building of capacities in different categories, including engineering, education and health.
Mr. Fraenkel, who is on a month-long family visit to Liberia, made the disclosure on Thursday, March 5, 2020, during an interview with the Daily Observer in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
“Liberians learned many trades at the vocation learning center created by the company, Fraenkel recalled. People spent three years to be trained as surveyors, mechanics, electricians, etc. Many young Liberian people took advantage of the opportunity and achieved their technical education.”
Mr. Fraenkel, a German National who transitioned to Liberia in September of 1963 and later married a Liberian lady, Ms. Joyce Holder of Crozierville, Montserrado County. The Fraenkels have been blessed with two children and several grandchildren. Mr. Fraenkel departed Liberia in October of 1990 and returned to Liberia in 2001 and now 2020. His wife Joyce unfortunately predeceased him.
Mr. Fraenkel said some of those who benefited from Bong Mining Company have opened their own workshops and continued to provide needy services to society. He said the Bong Mining Company also .established the agriculture program, a project that benefited Liberians but at a small scale.
“I came to Liberia in 1963 and got employed with a steel company, Bong Range or Bong Mining Company. The company hired me at the time there were no activities ongoing. After a period of time, the process started and we had to commence a building of a railroad from the Free Port of Monrovia to Bong Mine in Lower Bong County,” Mr. Fraenkel said.
According to him, the building of the railroad from Monrovia Port to Bong Mine was less than 100 kilometers and this railway was given to an American company called Bong Mine Railway. He said the inauguration of the railroad was attended by former President William V. S. Tubman.
Mr. Fraenkel indicated that firstly, the job actually motivated him to stay in Liberia for those years and was climaxed by marrying a Liberian lady.
“I had a lot of work to do, including maintenance of machines, cars, and also working in the mountain. There was electricity provided by the generators but no air-condition. Interestingly, we were all young people working, including accountants, engineers, technical engineers and mining engineers,” Mr. Fraenkel said.
The company started slowly and later everything got into motion with workshops, power plants and advertising.
According to him, during the rainy season in Liberia, the mount coffee hydropower provided electricity for Bong Mine, while the Bong Mine provided current to Monrovia during the dry season, but this existed only during the 70s and 80s.
Mr. Fraenkel said most of his work was at the railroad, including maintenance, as the company operation ran for 24hrs, especially the shipment of the iron ore. He said there were no passengers allowed on the railway during those days.
The company also had Liberian engineers, who socialized among themselves and their German counterparts. It was at one of these parties that he (Fraenkel) spotted a young and beautiful lady named Joyce Holder, who hailed from Crozierville. We fell in love with each other and I later got married to her.
Joyce was then was then working for Rubber Planters Association of Liberia, based in Monrovia. Joyce later moved to Bong Mine and began working for Bong Mine Hospital as the chief secretary.
Madam Joyce Holder Fraenkel’s uncle, Lans Holder, who had a farm which supplied Bong Mining Company with community food and meat. Madam Fraenkel, unfortunately, died in 2016.
According to Mr. Fraenkel, he was called in 2001 to come to Liberia and he worked for a Liberian company headed by Mr. Nathaniel Richardson. He later returned to Germany where he continued to work until he retired at the age of 75.
He said there is no need to revamp Bong Mine as the iron ore deposit was nearly depleted before the departure of the company.
He said the concession agreement was not properly concluded, especially targeting the Liberian community to be a beneficiary of the concession agreement. He however, calls on Liberians to institute measures moving forward that help to ensure that communities’ benefit from concession agreements, including having Liberian staff, wherever these concessions exist.
Mr. Fraenkel is a civil engineer, but spent most of his time in the Bong Mine in the railroad department. He worked for the German Railroad and once took up assignment in China, where he was instrumental in helping to build the high speed six-lane railroad in China as a quality manager.
Mr. and Mrs. Fraenkel were blessed with a son and a daughter and now also blessed with four grandchildren (three boys and a girl) and one great-grandchild. Mr. Fraenkel is now almost 80 years of age.
Last Sunday he visited Crozierville, accompanied by Mrs. Wilrusha Fernandez Kemokai, niece of Christoph and Joyce Fraenkel. He and Wilrusha visited the gravesites of Wilrusha’s parents, Bill and Jerusha Fernandez. They also visited the graveyard of Christ Episcopal Church, accompanied by Ken and Mae Gene Best and Mrs. Gladys Porte. Christoph and Wilrusha also Porte’s Hill, where they met Mr. Elfric K. Porte, first son of Albert Porte, as well as Elfric’s sister-in-law, Mrs. Evelyn Porte, widow of Leroy Porte, Elfric’s younger brother. It was a happy reunion for Mr. Fraenkel and Evelyn Porte, for both she and her husband worked together with Mr. Fraenkel in Bong Mine in the 1960s to the 80s.