Participants attending a one-day stakeholder's engagement on the Putu Iron Ore Mining Incorporated (PIOM)in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County have called for the frequent conduct of such forum in the company's impacted communities to reduce anxiety and expectations among the populace regarding the company's operations.
The participants also noted that these types of discussions would go a long way in improving the stifled relations between the company and the communities; thereby ensuring genuine cooperation amongst the impacted communities that would guarantee the successful implementation of the mining project in the country.
The one-day interactive forum was organized by Amu-wlu Forum, a civil society organization based in Grand Gedeh County, and it brought together over one hundred participants and several speakers from the Ministry of Labor, Forestry Development Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, International Volunteer Organization and senior staff of PIOM.
At the forum, the Labor Ministry Representative Thomas Ballah deliberated on employment policy of government, with emphasis on hiring and dismissal. Mr. Ballah clarified that any employee that engages in undermining an institution, or support any action that could jeopardize the existence of that entity, could be willfully dismissed without recourse from the Labor Ministry.
The Labor official disclosed however that from his knowledge, the company so far has not breached any of the labor laws that could demand punitive action and therefore urged the management to remain law-abiding. For his part, the Forestry Development Authority Representative Philip Joekolo addressing the gathering explained that under the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) the government signed with the company, PIOM is permitted to cut pieces of logs to facilitate its construction works.
He also clarified that under that arrangement, the company is not obligated to sign any agreement with the community that is being suggested in other areas, because, according to him, the company was not engaged in commercial logging. The PIOM Assistant Human Resources Manager Armstrong Geneyan, who deliberated on the company's employment policy and procedures, disclosed that PIOM has put in place employment mechanisms in line with requirements of the Ministry of Labor.
Mr. Geneyan noted that under PIOM's employment policy, the company board of directors has the sole authority to employ. He said vacancies are filled when there is expansion in PIOM's operations, promotion or retirement of a staff. The PIOM Human Resources Assistant Manager further explained that such vacancies are filled based on qualifications, relevant work experience, employee's potential for growth and company's policies.
Mr. Geneyan told the gathering vacancies at PIOM are posted in very visible areas including PIOM site bulletin boards and bulletin boards erected in all of the sixteen impacted communities of the company, including Zwedru and Greenville Cities. He said in addition to these sites, vacancies notices are placed in Liberian local newspapers. The PIOM Public Relations Officer Michael Toh, who spoke on the company's impact on communities, observed that since the company started operations in the country, it has made significant contributions to the socio-economic development of the communities in respect to its social responsibilities.
According to Mr. Toh the company is regularly rehabilitating roads leading from Zwedru to Petrokon, and from Petrokon to Jarwodee, including streets in the various communities in the company' s operational area. He said the company has provided scholarships to five high school students this year to complete their studies, and has also offered seven scholarships to deserving students from Grand Gedeh County to further their studies in any recognized college in the country.
The PIOM PRO said the company has signed an MOU with authorities of the Zwedur Multilateral High School Vocational Training Program to provide yearly internship at PIOM. Mr. Toh disclosed that the management has also reached an understanding with the University of Liberia Geology Department for funding to that institution to support students reading geology.
He also disclosed that PIOM is providing quarterly stipend to instructors in fourteen schools, three clinics and community leaders in Putu District. The PIOM PRO concluded his remarks, by saying that the company has undertaken lots of evacuation exercises for critical medical cases from the various communities, including the airlifting of little Beersheba Wotoe, who was airlifted to a South African hospital after sustaining third degree burns, and was treated for eight months under the auspices of PIOM.