Senator Daniel Flomo Naatehn (Gbarpolu County) has warned of a looming disaster in the wake of growing illicit mining activities in his county while the government of Liberia has increase efforts to crack down on the illicit miners. The ministry of Lands and Mine has confiscated several pieces of equipment and destroyed illegal mining camps within the Gola National Park in Grand Cape Mount County.
The impacts of illicit mining, allegedly by Ghanaian businessmen “are negative to both human and the environment and defrauds government of revenue required to fund national development initiatives,” a release from the Ministry said.
The Inspectorate Division of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, mandated by Minister Gesler E. Murray, carried out the weeklong operation in the Gola Forest.
According to the release, when the Mineral Inspectors arrived at Camp Israel which is adjacent to the National Park, all of the illicit miners within the Park fled their respective camps and hid their working materials in fear of not complying with the law.
The Mines and Energy Ministry’s Team recovered many hidden items and created awareness amongst community residents about the usefulness of the national forest to biodiversity and climate change, and the need to join efforts with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and other conservationists in preserving the forest.
During the engagements, the Ministry’s Team observed that to prevent mining activities from taking place within the National Forest, there is a need for a concerted effort in solving a boundary dispute involving the residents and the Forestry Development Authority.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy, assures that as provided for in Section 10.1 of the Mineral and Mining Laws of Liberia, it will not, and has not issued any mining clearances and licenses in protected zones including the Gola National Park. Illicit miners easily encroach on the Gola Forest land as the Inspectors observed that mining is the main livelihood activity in the area, which the locals said has spanned more than three decades.
The Inspectorate team observed that most of the illicit miners carrying out illegal mining in the Gola Forest and other mining camps in Grand Cape Mount County are aliens, mainly from neighboring Sierra Leone. In December 2020, the Minister of Mines and Energy, Gesler E. Murray, set up a special Taskforce comprising mineral inspectors to clampdown on the use of dredges and mercury, plus other forms of illicit mining across the Country.
The Team has since begun implementing the national mandate of Minister Murray with operational activities in rural Montserrado, the Western and Southeastern regions with plans to reach out to all six mining regions of the Country.
“These illicit miners who are predominantly Ghanaian nationals, are causing huge environmental degradation that is now threatening the very livelihood of Liberian citizens living in places with huge concentrations of the illicit Ghanaian miners,”Senator Naatehn’s February 18, 2021 communication
Senator Naatehn disclosed that the miners are using an immeasurable volume of a very dangerous chemical called mercury to extract gold, and has made all the rivers unsafe for humans, wildlife, and domesticated animals that depend on the rivers for drinking, washing, and other purposes. The Senator lamented that the Ministry of Lands, Mines, and Energy which has the statutory responsibility to grant mining licenses and also institute measures to ensure the safety of Liberian citizens in mining communities is said to be complacent in the illegal mining atrocities in Gbarpolu.
“Hence, the Ministry’s inability to take legal measures to gradually curtail the illegal mining or abolish the act is not healthy for our country.”
“Colleagues, we have a huge disaster looming right under our noses and we must urgently take actions to safeguard our resources and protect the livelihood of our citizens. Therefore, I am requesting your indulgence for plenary to invite the Minister of Lands, Mines, and Energy to appear before this august body to tell the Liberian people why the Ministry is intentionally failing to implement the necessary laws against the dangerous chemicals and other harmful methods of mining against the safety of our people and wildlife.”
Agreeing with his colleague’s call for urgent attention, Senator J. Gbleh-bo Brown said the counties in the southeast of the country including his county, Maryland, are all experiencing a growing wave of illegal depletion of the ecosystem of the country through crude mining methods. The Committee on Lands, Mines, and Energy together with other relevant committees have been charged by Senate plenary to conduct an exhaustive investigation and report within two weeks.