Monrovia — For the first time in many years, the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy has commented publicly on the numerous statements in the press, discussions in every quarter and the belief that Liberia is extremely rich in mineral resources, which, if exploited and managed properly, every Liberian would be rich.
In an interview with journalists at his Capitol Hill Office, Mr. Albert T. Chie, Assistant Minister for Mineral Exploration and Research, said, "for so many years, we sat in this Ministry and listened to politicians, foreign diplomats, local and international NGOs, clergymen, and ordinary Liberians, that Liberia has billions of US Dollars worth of oil, billions and even trillions of Dollars worth of gold, diamonds and other minerals. All these statements are lies, exaggeration of the situation and are either made out of ignorance or are deliberately intended to mislead the public."
He said that at this stage in the mineral resource appraisal and development process in Liberia, what is known is that Liberia has the "potential" for these minerals. "I challenge any politician, geologist, mining engineer, or anybody for that matter, in Liberia or any part of the world, to tell us how much oil, gold or diamonds Liberia has", the Assistant Minister declared.
"While Liberia has several billion metric tons of combined iron ore reserves and resources, most of the remaining reserves at LAMCO, Bong Mines and some of the former mines are of low grade ore, as well as unconfirmed resources at Wologisi, Putu and so forth. Only significant improvement in global iron ore prices, like the surge experienced in mid 2004 to early 2005, will enhance foreign investment in the iron ore sector. The recent drop in iron ore prices has begun to make us nervous", the Assistant Minister said.
Mr. Chie, who holds a Master of Science (M.Sc.) Degree in Economic Geology from the University of Rochester in Upstate New York, USA, and also a lecturer in Geology and General Engineering at the University of Liberia, noted that for many years, mainly local Liberians (sometimes in partnership with foreign nationals), have been engaged essentially in small-scale alluvial mining, using mostly crude methods to produce from creeks and alluvial flats, isolated and often dispersed quantities of gold and diamonds, just to make ends meet. Once a while, a few lucky ones find a good quality and high carat diamond, and the whole town beams with rumors.
Making further clarifications on the issue, Asst. Minister Chie said, over the last fifty years or so, there have been so many Liberians, sometimes by themselves or in partnership with foreigners, who have invested heavily in the alluvial mining sector through the purchase and use of heavy machinery, but most of the projects have failed.
"Prior to the imposition of the UN Sanctions on Liberia, a significant quantity of diamonds that were thought to have been produced in Liberia actually came from neighboring countries. The records of Liberian production available at the High Diamond Council and other international centers, especially since 1990, are exaggerated and misleading.
Undoubtedly, Liberia has the potential for these minerals. However, these potentials have to been proven."
In this regard, he said, over the last ten years, the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy has embarked upon a strategy to achieve this objective: Aggressive and Scientific Search (otherwise known as Exploration in our scientific jargon) to find the source (mother lode) of the relatively small quantities of the gold, diamonds and other minerals that sometimes appear in the creeks, swamps, beaches and so forth, to appraise and quantify these minerals (determine the amount of gold, diamond and other minerals). With hard work and patience, in five to ten years, these scientific searches could yield fruits and numerous large-scale mines (like those in Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, etc) could be opened in Liberia, thus reviving the shattered economy. It could also be possible that at the end of the numerous scientific searches, either nothing could be found or what is found may not be economic to mine, and thus the conclusion would be reached that Liberia is poor in mineral resources.
"One key parameters of our mineral development strategy is to engage the private sector (both local and foreign) to participate in the scientific search for the minerals and prove our mineral worth.
"Since 1994, we have worked hard to attract private sector investment to our mineral exploration program, through presentations and personal interactions at mining conferences and numerous contacts. Other Liberians have also encouraged and brought in investors. We are also thankful to the Mano River Resources that has promoted Liberia to other foreign investors over the years. At first it was difficult due largely to the security and political risk factors. Exploration involves the spending of Millions of US Dollars by companies to search for mineral deposits. This takes up to five years on the average. During this period, the companies spend money on the search and take out no mineral.
"Due to the competence of the officials and staff of the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy and the high level of transparency and professionalism in our license process, coupled with the significant level of confidence investors have developed in us over the last ten years, we can boast that the entire country is overwhelmed with mineral exploration projects," Minister Chie added.
Concluding, Assistant Minister Chie said, Liberia has tremendous potential to be a wealthy nation in terms of mineral resources. Results of recent exploration around the country have given us this indication.
While we appreciate the assistance and cooperation of some of Liberia's International Partners, we must be aware of others who come here, in various forms, with the intention of controlling our mining sector for personal benefits and those of their hidden business associates.
Minister Chie then admonished Liberians to have faith in the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy as it has the ability to and is in the process of determining the mineral potential of this country. It will take several years of hard work, dedication, infusion of funds, and patience.