Monrovia — Liberia's Minister of Mines and Energy Gesler E. Murray has warned that if care is not taken, the increase in social marginalization of Liberians at various mining sites around the country could degenerate into xenophobic and reprisal actions that could trigger a degree of social unrest.
His comments were in response to reports about many Liberian men at mining sites complaining that their girlfriends and spouses are being taken away by illicit Ghanaian miners who have better economic benefits owing to their illicit mining activities.
At a Senate hearing Friday, he said, what is more appalling is the news that some young girls have been subjected to sexual-based violence and abuse and in some instances these girls are being used for pornography movies.
"The social fabric is being eroded by young girls leaving school and becoming bread winners for their families."
Minister Murray was invited by the Senate to provide update on mining activities in the country, especially the news of foreigner's evading Liberia's mining sector and carrying out illicit mining activities. He told the Senators about how the illegal mining sector is being dominated by Ghanaians and other nationals.
"Even though dominant foreign nationalities involve in illicit mining activities are Ghanaians, there are also other nationals in these activities to include Malians, people from Burkina Faso, Ivorians, Guineans and Sierra Leoneans. Without bias, the presence of citizens of Burkina Faso and Malians tend to raise some eyebrow as Mali and Burkina Faso are now confronted with the task of active jihadists militants."
He stressed there is the need for the country's national security apparatus to begin to roll out a security network across the illegal mining sites as illegal mining has the propensity to evolve into a national security threat.
According to Minister Murray, the Ministry's investigation has also uncovered most of the miners enter the country through the 74 porous borders that is not guarded by officers of the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS).
According to him, Liberia has 174 porous border crossing point and only 40 of those guarded by LIS officers while 77% are open to illegal entry.
"Chinese nationals who may have entered legally are also found to be engaged in illegal mining, mainly by providing earth moving equipment to Class 'C' miners operating under dubious corporative scheme. Another problem we have identified is aiding and abetting by local community residents who should be the first watchdog against illegal miners
"The actions of these communities tend to prevent the ministry from enforcing the mining laws. Some county authorities like paramount chiefs, town chiefs, superintendents and commissioners have not cooperated well in the enforcement mandates and are alleged to have facilitated illegal activities in return for some favor or gratuity."
Ministry is under funded
Also, during his appearance, he informed the Senators about how underfunded the Ministry of Mines and Energy is, a situation, he said is impacting the effective monitoring work of the entity. "The Ministry energy is severely underfunded which negatively impact its ability to carry out its core mandate and functions which are to effectively administer the mineral resources of the country.
"The Ministry budget for Fiscal Year 2019/2020 respectively was capped at US$1.9 million; to make matter worse, the ministry budget for FY2020/2021 is capped at US$ 1.7 million. Policymakers must now take a hard decision to see haw the ministry can be adequately funded to achieve revenue inflow, efficient monitoring of mining activities, he said.