The Chinese government through China-Aid has dispatched two mineral prospecting drones to Liberia to conduct geophysical surveys of areas with potential mineral deposits.
The geophysical survey of areas with potential mineral deposits in Liberia by China, according to the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy (LME), does not mean that it (China) is interested in mining in the country, but is rather fulfilling a bilateral agreement it reached with the Sirleaf Administration.
LME in a press statement said other methods of survey, including stream sediment sampling and soil sampling, had been done in the past, and that the geophysical survey is the last method to be carried out under the National Geological Mapping program.
“The drones are equipped with specialized geophysical instruments to pick up magnetic anomalies,” the LME release says.
According to the release, the exercise is expected to begin in early March and will continue up to the end of May 2018, and the two drones are to fly between the altitudes of 200 and 350 meters.
Some Liberian geologists, including Gabriel B. Saydee, told a news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 21, that the survey is the most advanced and most expensive to be carried out in Liberia to date.
Saydee, reading the LME press statement, urged Liberians dwelling in the territorial confines of the country not to panic as the ‘strange objects’ may re-invoke memories of the Liberian civil war when ECOMOG jets and the Charles Taylor government attack-helicopters carried out bombing missions in different parts of the country.
He added that the exercise will create a new geological map that will reflect the current mineral realities of Liberia, as the old map has turned out to be of limited use now.
Liberia is a mineral-rich country that mainly produces iron ore, gold and diamonds.
Although there have also been reports of offshore oil, prospects by multinational companies including CHEVRON have shown “no commercial quantity” so far.
Iron ore has been mined in huge quantities in Liberia and it remains one of the highest contributors to the government’s income.
The main mining site now is in Yekepa, Nimba County, where ArcelorMittal Liberia is operating. Two major gold mining companies including MNG Gold in Bong County and Bea Mountain in Grand Cape Mount County are also operating in the country.
The World Bank 2013 report indicates that the mineral industry accounts for 11% of Liberia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which, according to analysts, is a pittance compared to the true value of the minerals exported.
Since the price of iron ore dropped on the world market in 2014, Liberia has been striving to recover from this sharp drop in the price of the commodity.
Market Insider report indicates that the current world market price of iron ore as of February 21 is US$77.05.
Aside from Liberia’s 1980 Development and Planning Atlas, which contains information on mineral occurrence in Liberia, there is no other current report on the full extent and variety of mineral occurrence in Liberia but, according to Saydee, when the drones begin operating across the country new revelations about additional mineral deposits should be expected.