Lorma Baysah, executive director of Rural Human Rights Activists Program (RHRAP), a non-governmental organization, has embarked on a week-long awareness campaign to educate residents on the impact of gold mining activities in the country.
A release issued on Sunday, September 9 by Mr. Baysah, said the awareness, which is funded by Liberian United to Serve Humanity (LUSH) Cosmetics Charitable Giving Program, is intended to inform and advocate for residents on the social and environmental issues affecting areas like Kingjor Township, Gola Konneh District in Grand Cape Mount County, as a result of extensive gold mining.
Baysah said RHRAP is currently carrying on a situation analysis and working session with community people, who are largely affected by the mining activities. The session, which was held on Thursday, September 6, in Kinjor Town, was attended by 36 community representatives.
RHRAP, is a human rights and peace organization that was established in December 1997 by a group of activists who believed that the message of human rights should be spread into the rural areas so as to educate rural inhabitants on issues of human rights, peace and social developments. It is a not-for-profit, non-governmental and non-political organization.
“The results of our findings, including recommendations from both RHRAP and the affected communities, will be presented to national government for redress. The second aspects of RHRAP’s initiative is to educate community residents on how to take precaution when using chemicals that are used for gold mining, in order to save the lives of not only the present residents but generations to come,” said Baysah.
He said the pilot project will last for seven months, including stakeholder engagement to find a solution to the plight of residents of the mining community.
“In the coming months, RHRAP will engage various civil society coalitions, relevant government ministries and agencies, to dialogue for concrete resolution of the community’s plights,” Baysah added.
He said the issue of transparency and accountability remains a serious threat to the country’s mineral sector, which is something the government needs to take seriously.
He further said that corrupt practices, coupled with human rights violations and abuses, including environmental pollution and the destruction of the ecosystem, are some of the key challenges facing survivors of indigenous communities at the gold mines.
According to Baysah, there is a lack of participation of extractive community residents, and information concerning agreements/contracts signed between companies and the Government of Liberia (GoL) remains hidden to most citizens, including those that are greatly affected by extractive operations, making it difficult for them to monitor the compliance to contracts as well as Corporate Social Responsibility.
Therefore, extractive communities residents need to be informed online about both the negative and positive impacts of mining prior to extractive company’s operation and whether they are done in line with international best practices.
Baysah said cyanide and other chemicals are usually used in the extraction and purification of gold, which leads to water and soil pollution, causing health hazard for community residents.
It can be recalled that residents of Bong County suffered the aftermath of cyanide spillage, which polluted several creeks in the area operated by MNG Gold mining concession.
Some of the chemical spill included cyanide, mercury and lead, which are highly dangerous to community residents, their water source and flora and fauna.
MNG Mining Limited took over from the American-Liberian Mining Company (AmLib) in 2013. The company began mining gold on August 28, 2015, with a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the EPA, the company did not follow best practices aimed at averting environmental pollution.
Additionally, this paper also reported in it’s July 17, 2018 edition that the management of Bea Mountain Mining Corporation was fined US$99,999 by the EPA for alleged cyanide spillage in its operation area, claiming the company was not given due diligence during the investigation.