10 December 2012

Liberia: Death Trap in Gbarpolu

Indiscriminate illicit mining activities taking place at an unprecedented scale in the 'Gola' Forest and other parts of Gbarpolu County are creating death traps in the area, Supt Allen Gbowee has alarmed.

He told a consultative meeting convened in Tubmanburg to discuss immediate actions to avert a catastrophe, that the forest which is currently national reserve for wildlife, has come under heavy illicit mining activities from individuals and groups, rendering the forest as a place of imminent death trap.

"There's serious problem with mining activity in this country. As I speak to you the situation in my county (Gbapolu) has reached an alarming state. People are all in the forest digging holes and mining indiscriminately," Supt Gbowee told participants of the Second Consultative Meeting of stakeholders on Liberia's mineral law review Thursday in Tubmanburg, Bomi County.

"Though the FDA has said that there's no mining activity going on in the 'Gola' Forest, I want to inform you that that is not the case. I am just from Kongba. There's serious mining activity going on in the Gola Forest and other areas in the county. These people have created death traps. We need to do something about this," Mr. Gbowee stressed.

He also blamed the situation on "Class C" Mining license holders, whom he accused of bypassing the mining regulations of Liberia.

In order to remedy the situation, Mr. Gbowee called for better coordination between local authorities and the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, and suggested that mining companies pay royalty or compensation to their host communities for their own development.

Thursday's meeting was in fulfillment of a promise the government made in November to review the mining laws of Liberia given its obsolete nature.

The decision by the government to review mining laws also comes amidst reports that almost a quarter of Liberia's forest land have been sold, and that the country is losing millions of dollars due to illicit mining.

Mining agents from the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, representatives of various mining companies operating within Liberia's western cluster, as well as individuals and groups possessing mining operating licenses attended the conference.

On their part, participants called on the government to allow them form part of future discussions, and decision making process regarding mining activities. They also suggested the creation of miners' corporative that would spearhead their activities and coordinate with government in order to curb the high rate of illegal mining in the county.

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