Liberia: Sinoe Residents Protest Against Chinese Miners' Operation

Du — Villagers in a township in Sinoe County's Kpayan District last week blocked the entrance of a company mining sand in that area, claiming not to have taken part in a memorandum of understanding with their community.

The protestors, some dressed in warlike traditional outfits, and set up roadblocks, chanted battle cries in the Du-Wolee township, demanding their concerns about jobs and other benefits be addressed.

"We are stopping them because there is no understanding between them and us," said Daddy Nyanswah, the spokesperson for the protestors, in a town hall meeting. "The MoU they even signed, community people don't get one. It's between [them] and the Commissioner.

"They have been for over four months now, and calling them to meet they will not come so for their own bogus MoU they agree they have," Nyanswah added.

"They told the community that before the operation we will come to you people and employ 25 persons for the first phase. Today they're doing their own thing they started the operation," a furious Nyanswah said.

Darius Nagbe, the Commissioner of Du-Wolee township denied the villages did not participate in the signing of the agreement, dubbing Nyanswah and other protestors "detractors."

"That information is far from the truth, it's from the belly of the devil," Nagbe told The DayLight in an interview in Blue Barracks, where the protest was taking place. "Everybody came from all angles, they all assembled here and the MoU was signed."

Nagbe's comments were backed by Lawrence Kwame Frank, an interpreter with the Chinese-Liberian-owned. DayLight has requested a copy of the agreement.

But a video on Nagbe's mobile phone shows people of the township signing a document, with officials of the county, including Nagbe.

Glorious Mining Company Inc. has a five-year semi-industrial scale license to mine sand on 25 acres on Du-Wolee's beachfront. This reporter visited the firm's mine and witnessed Liberian and Asian workers erecting camp houses and setting up equipment. Huge sandbars could be seen at a number of locations, an indication mining was taking place.

It was unclear whether the company was mining sand or zircon sand, a mineral used in the electronics and ceramics industries. Its equipment looks like those of a zircon-sand mining operation, while its license says sand.

The license also shows that the company was only awarded the rights to mine in that area on 21st December, just under two weeks before the protest. However, the company had been working there six months earlier, according to residents and Frank.

Frank said the Glorious was only testing its equipment and would begin actual employment soon as it promised in the MoU.

"The employment we talking about I am working after the workers' employment," Frank said as two Chinese men by his side. "Employment is a process. If I prepare I have to send it to labor they will see it before I print it out. I have more than 200 employment forms in my house.

"We been here for six months, we just building our residence, we will not be working here and we are in Greenville. So building our residence and the equipment we will be using to do the work," he added.

News of the protest reached the police in Greenville, Sinoe's capital less than one kilometer away. The police then brokered a peace talk between the protestors and the company, ending the protest.

"We are here for peace," said Charles Daniel Nyegbah, a traditional leader, dressed in palm leaves and grass and posted at the barricade. "I am here for peace am not here for bloodshed."

This story was originally published by The DayLight and has been republished here by permission.

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