Tension Brews at Gold Mine in Bong

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Residents of Dean Town in Korkoyah District, Bong County are rising against the operation of MNG Gold Mining Company on claims that the company has refused to employ the locals or allow them to carry on artisanal mining.

As a result of tension rising in the area, government has dispatched a team of Police officers of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) there.

In a view sampling, the aggrieved residents of Dean Town said, “The Company has refused to employ us to work, and at this time of hardship it is not allowing us to wash the dirt stockpiled here so we can get at least a gram of gold to sell.  How do they want us to make living too?”

According to the aggrieved locals, when they gathered and blocked the only road that vehicles and bike can use to go to the company’s operational site, the police allegedly fired in the air; scaring a lot of people to dispersion.  Police did not comment on the allegation.

In response to claim by residents of the town, MNG Gold Project Geologist, Benedict Sayeh, said the company uses some chemicals to explore for mineral which, if the people are allowed may cause them harm.

Besides, he said the company bought licenses from all the artisanal miners in the area, thereby giving the company all legal rights to the vicinity within which it operates.  He added that allowing the people to wash dirt stockpiled in the area may also encourage crowds to overtake the operational area of the company.

Regarding employment of locals, Mr. Sayeh said, “We employ any Liberian including the locals here depending they have the requisite qualification and competence, and we are not here to train but to make profit.”

He said the company has employed a few Liberians who have qualifications from the Tubman University in Maryland.  “We find qualified and competent employees from the various universities including the University of Liberia, but we are not here to train anybody.  You have the qualification and competence, job is here for you.”

On the issue of the company’s investment in the Kokoya District, Mr. Sayeh said establishment in pursuit of gold began in 2002.  The company according to the Liberian Geologist quantified its wealth in 2012 from where it began installing operational plants to mine.

He disclosed that the mineral development agreement between the company and government compels it to give US$12,000 to Bong County every year, besides taxes it pays to government.

In the confines of the operational area, Mr. Sayeh indicated that the company negotiates with people whose structures may be affected by blasting, but they do not have any resettlement burden to bear because no one is removed from his/her settlement as a result of the operations.

The operation site contains a huge production plant divided into various compartments for different operations which, according to Sayeh, contributed to the US$75 million invested in the mining operation in Bong County.

He candidly stated that their huge investment is a manifestation of the presence of the mineral they need in the county, and since they began mining, they have gotten not less than 50,000 kg of gold.

In terms of the future prospect, Sayeh said the operation is rewarding and by what they see, every pile of dirt at the site is useful and are hopeful of yielding gold.

The road leading to the site through Kokoya District is very deplorable, but Mr. Sayeh said the company pays taxes and other fees that government charged the company in the mineral agreement for 25 years.

Therefore if there is any condition regarding infrastructure, the company is not responsible but government, who owns the road.  “We can repair the roads here by discretion and not under obligation to do because you have the government that collects taxes and other fees from us for our operation here.

We are the only company that has direct agreement with community in which we operate, and as you may see, we are repairing community roads around here instead of the road along which we transport our commodity and equipment,” Sayeh said.

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