Quarrel over Mining Sites in Gbparpolu

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Liberian entrepreneur begs Ministry of Mines to investigate 3-year dispute with Chinese Investor

An overlapping mining quarrel involving a Liberian mining entrepreneur, Mr. John P. Saah and a Chinese businessman, Mr. Zhang De Min, popularly known as Mr. Parker, has reached its third year since March 2017 with the latter requesting the Mines and Energy Minister Gessler Murray to intervene and investigate to avoid further conflict.

The fight over the mining sites of Mr. John P. Saah Family License C against Mr. Zhang De Min License B nearly resulted to a commotion in Weasua, Gbarma District, Gbapolu County, and since then, six communications have been written to the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the latest letter dated September 17, 2019.

In a communication to Min. Gessler, Mr. Samai Sheriff (the Authorized Representative of Mr. John P. Saah’s family) allegedly accused the Director of Mines of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Mr. Samuel Wilson, of violating the Mining Law of 2000 and the rights of ordinary Liberian of the John P. Saah Family. The takeover of the mining site nearly resulted in to a commotion between supporters of Mr. Zhang De Min and John P. Saah and led to a complaint filed to the Ministry of Mines and Energy since April 5, 2019 against the Chinese national, holder of Class B Licenses (MBL 2924/17), of overlapping their operational site.

The communication, dated September 17, 2019, said the Ministry’s agent assigned in that area illegally removed all the properties of the Saah Family’s Class C operating equipment area without any regard to the Saah’s Family and allowed the Chinese national to continue to work in that designated area even though an investigation of the formal complaint is ongoing by the Ministry.

“For your easy reference, the complaint of overlapping within our operational area and the refusal to renew our license was dated April 5, 2019; a follow up communication was sent to the Ministry of April 24, 2019; our application for prospecting license and application for class B mining license was dated on April 30, 2019; another letter requesting an investigation was dated on May 2, 2019. Additional letters on the same reference matter were dated on July 23, 2019 and August 20, 2019 respectively,” Mr. Sheriff said.

“Prior to the illegal takeover of our Class C license area, the Chinese national, with the expressed consent of the Director of Mines, called a general town meeting at which the Gbarma District Commissioner, some officials in Gbarpolu County, the mining agent and the patrolman were present. Mr. Parker informed the Weasua community people that the government through the Ministry of Mines and Energy had already turned over the John P. Saah Class C Mining area to him effective on August 1, 2019; and to our utter dismay, the Chinese national, the patrolman and some gangsters went to our Class C area and forcibly removed and destroyed the belongings of family members of the John P. Saah Family who had occupied the designated area since 1974 as evidenced by the titled deed.”

Mr. Sheriff said amid the Director of Mines Samuel Wilson’s warning against ‘shovel mining’ as a risky venture, the Chinese national Class B is using ‘shovel mining’ against which the John P. Saah Family Class C is considering to upgrade since April 30, 2019 to a Class B license and use machines, but the application for upgrade has since been denied.

“Our family paid for a Class C License in 2016 and has been paying taxes on time up to date and is willing to pay the sum of US$10,000 to upgrade from its Class C License to Class B Mining License and to contribute more revenue to support the government’s pro poor development agenda.

“The silence of the Ministry to probe these serious and grave allegations lead us to one conclusion that the Ministry supports these criminal acts against their own nationals…because the Mining Act of 2000, Section 11.4 states that the legal owner or lawful occupant of property on which minerals are discovered shall be entitled to a right of first refusal in any application for obtaining Class A or Class B Mining License as against any third party or parties,” Mr. Sheriff said.

Speaking to the Daily Observer briefly via mobile phone on Monday, October 14, Mr. Sheriff said: “We have requested and are still begging the the Ministry to investigate the Class B License issued in March 2017 which overlapped our Class C license that was issued February 2016 and since April 5, 2019, the Ministry has not responded nor carried out any investigation in this matter. Sections 6.4 & 6.7(a) of the Mineral & Mining Act (2000) are too simple and easy for anyone to under that an overlap is a violation.”

Efforts to contact Minister Murray did not materialize, as his phone appeared to be switched off and, up to press time, text messages from this reporter to the minister went unanswered.

However, an office staff in the office of Ministry, who begged to be anonymous, said the Minister is indisposed but pointed out that the John P. Saah’s complaint is on the Minister’s desk and is part of a plan to investigate during the Minister’s seasonal inspection tour.

The staff said Director of Mines, Samuel Wilson, will be part of the Minister’s delegation including some senior staff, press and a representative of a civil society organization (national or international).

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