Representative R. Matenokay Tingban (Nimba Co) has claimed that the refusal to ratify the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between Liberia and Hummingbird Resources is because of the loss of revenue to the country due to the current bad economy, and not because of the rumored US$1.5 million kickback.
Rep. Tingban is the chairman on the House Joint Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment, Judiciary, Contracts and Monopolies, Investment and Concession.
He told newsmen yesterday in the House’s first floor conference room that the rumor is a blackmail intended to bring the Legislature into public disrepute and insisted that in the committee’s wisdom, if the agreement is ratified as is, it will lead to revenue loss in millions of U.S. dollars and a significant reduction in social development funds and other benefits
Rep. Tingban also said the areas where Hummingbird Resources would have operated would have been susceptible to limited and reckless exploration work, which would have rendered them uneconomical and relatively unattractive for future investments.
He said there is no plan in the agreement to mine the over four million ounces of gold the company (Hummingbird) claimed to have discovered in Sinoe County.
Rep. Tingban said the agreement has been sent back to the executive to address the “many inconsistencies” therein, and recommended to the plenary of the Senate to suspend the ratification process of the proposed Mineral Development Agreement between Hummingbird Resources (Liberia) Inc. and the Republic of Liberia pending explanation from the President of Liberia on the issues concerning the lumping of four exploration licenses into a single Mineral Development Agreement and the lack of a plan in the MDA towards the mining of the over four million ounces of inferred gold resource discovered in Sinoe County.”
Senator Albert Chie said with the formulation of the MDA, there should have been a provision setting aside production lot(s) over the areas in Sinoe where gold has been discovered or given a maximum of one year to declare production areas.
“Allotting the company five additional years for exploration over these containing a minable gold resource after exploring for 10 years is excessive and the legal, technical and economic bases are questionable. There are other areas of concern in the MDA but could be resolved with minimal consultation with the relevant agencies of Government,” he added.
In accordance with the New Minerals and Mining Law approved on April 3, 2000 (Sections 5.3 and 6.5) and Exploration Regulations issued by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (formerly known as the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy) in March 2010 (Section 3 and Section 21), Hummingbird should have given notice to the Minister of Mines and Energy, based on the report of a “competent person that it has delineated a gold resource in Sinoe County and wants an MDA over the area.”
As per the Mining Law and Exploration Regulation, only areas in which a mineral resource has been delineated, should, based on the report of a competent person, be subjected to an MDA and the rest of the areas will continue to be subject to exploration.
At a minimum, in the Hummingbird MDA, parts of the Dugbe License Area with the inferred resource should have been declared a ‘Production Area,’ while the rest of the areas in Grand Kru, River Gee and Maryland counties could continue to be under exploration.
Giving an additional five years to Hummingbird in the MDA for exploration (Section 4.d) before declaring production areas after exploring for over ten (10) years, especially in the Dugbe area of Sinoe, could be a contravention of the Minerals and Mining Law.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that the management of Hummingbird Resources is accusing the oversight Joint Committee of an alleged kickback of US$1.5m for a recommendation for the passage of the deal through one of its frontrunners or negotiators, Grand Gedeh lawmaker Zoe E. Pennoh.
It is said that Rep. Pennoh allegedly told Hummingbird that if “US$1.5m” is made available, the Joint Committee from both Houses will recommend the passage of the deal and lobby to ensure its passage.
But in an exclusive interview with Rep. Pennoh, he denied the report, saying, “I am not even a member of the Joint Committee, and don’t even know Hummingbird.”