9 May 2019

Liberia: House to Grill First Cabinet Minister in Open Session

Mines and Energy Minister, Gesler E. Murray, is reportedly facing mounting pressure over an increasing amount of fake mining licenses being issued to so-called miners, and the corresponding effect of illegal mining activities throughout the country.

With those reports, the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill has invited Minister Murray for questioning. He is expected to appear before that august body on Thursday, May 16, 2019 in an open session.

Minister Murray and his principal deputies, including technicians, are expected to appear before the House Plenary to explain the wave of illicit mining on their respective scopes of operations and give a roadmap as to the way forward to stop the illegal activities.

Murray's expected appearance will mark the first of its kind of a cabinet minister that members of the 54th have invited for grilling.

The lawmakers alleged refusal to invite cabinet ministers to grill them in open session, reportedly created rifts between some members of the Independent Legislative Caucus and Speaker Bhofal Chambers.

Prior to this death, the late Representative Adolph Lawrence of Montserrado County District #15 became the core fighter and was, on two occasions, thrown out of session, having been accused of vilifying Speaker Chambers for not placing on the agenda, his (Lawrence's) communications inviting some cabinet ministers for questioning

Montserrado County District #10 Representative Yekeh Kolubah, River Gee County District #3 Representative Francis S. Dopoh, II and Grand Bassa County District #5 Representative Thomas A. Goshua, II were also among those lawmakers agitating for being victimized.

Besides the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweh, who was questioned in closed session, a proxy represented Labor Minister Moses Kollie before that august body.

Plenary's decision on Tuesday, May 7, during the 28th day sitting was based on a motion filed by Representative Mariamu Fofana (Lofa County District #4), following a communication from Representative Matthew Joe (Grand Bassa County District #3), seeking the acquiescence of the House to invite Minister Murray to explain the cause(s) of the proliferation of the reported illicit mining activities across the country; explain circumstances leading to granting of mining licenses in the categories of class "A & B," specifically to aliens and Liberians and state the measures the ministry is doing to stop the alleged illegal activities.

The Grand Bassa Lawmaker argued that the proliferation of illegal mining involving aliens is becoming alarming across the country, with specific reference to the Nimba County gold mine disaster where dozens were trapped under the debris at the Gbanepea Gold Mine near Tappita.

Rep. Joe said that during a most recent visit to Grand Bassa County, specifically in Districts four and five, respectively, he saw dredges on the Timbo and the St. John Rivers being operated by Ghanaians. When he inquired whether they were licensed, their response was no.

He also referenced reports of dredges discovered on the St. Paul River and ongoing illicit mining in Haindii, Fuamah District, Lower Bong County.

This proliferation of illicit mining activities, he said, is swindling government of thousands of United States dollars in revenue.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy, Liberia . The Ministry of Mines & Energy (MME) was established by an act of legislature to administer all activities related to mineral, water and energy resource exploration, coordination and development in the Republic of Liberia.

Also, illegal mining is on the rise in Grand Kru County and at least 2,000 foreigners, especially from Ghana and Ivory Coast are currently estimated to be involved in illegal artisanal gold mining.

The illegal miners present huge challenges that need to be addressed from a range of perspectives. It takes place both at abandoned mines and at operating mines, with illegal miners often operating out of desperation and in dangerous conditions.

Grand Kru County District # 2 Representative, Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, confirmed the illegal mining.

According to him, foreigners are reportedly bringing dredge machines into the county illegally and mining gold, something he noted, when not addressed urgently, could lead to serious environmental degradation.

According to Grand Bassa County Lawmaker, Hon Matthew Joe, the illicit mining taking place in the country is depriving the Government of needed revenue and is damaging the creeks and rivers from which the citizens fetch drinking water.

Other officials that are expected to appear before the lawmakers are the Administrators of the Phebe Hospital, including the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Willimena Jallah, to show reasons why Phebe Hospital is underfunded, something which exposes the citizens to risk.

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