Monrovia — The House of Representatives' Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Concessions has commenced public hearings to evaluate the Restated and Amended Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) recently approved by the Liberian Senate, signed between the Government of Liberia and Bea Mountain Mining Corporation (BMCC).
BMCC operates Liberia's first and largest commercial gold mine in Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County. If ratified, the MDA will grant Bea Mountain an additional 25-year extension for mining operations in Liberia.
The House Joint Committee is comprised of members from various committees, including Mines, Energy & Natural Resources; Investment and Concessions; Agriculture, and Judiciary.
The Restated and Amended MDA is of paramount national significance, governing the terms and conditions for mineral exploration and exploitation within the nation. It delineates the responsibilities of the involved parties, encompassing benefits sharing, environmental safeguards, and social development commitments.
During the hearing, Atty. Molewuleh B. Gray, Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Concessions Committee, highlighted that under the new 25-year agreement, Bea Mountain is obligated to invest an additional US$520 million. Gray outlined four key areas for investment, including a US$70 million commitment to the Leopard Rock Reserve this September, US$150 million at the Mt. Tamor Open Pit Mine next month, US$200 million at Nat Blama Mine by June 2024, and a US$100 million investment at Mt. Tamor Heap Leach.
Key figures present at the hearing included Bea Mountain General Manager Reza Karimunyon, Mr. Debar Allen, Country Manager, Mines and Energy Minister Gester Murray, National Investment Commissioner Molewuleh Gray, and Acting Justice Minister Nyanati Tuan. Representing the National Bureau of Concession were Diana Harris and Wilmot Yarsiah, with Gabriel Montgomery, Deputy Commissioner General for Technical Services, representing the Liberia Revenue Authority.
Rep. Clarence Massaquoi, Chairman of the Joint Committee (District #3, Lofa County), who presided over the hearings, emphasized the House's commitment to safeguarding public interests. The committee is dedicated to a thorough review of the MDA, fostering public participation, including input from affected communities and counties, Rep. Massaquoi said.
Massaquoi stated, "The public is hearing us. The public is watching, and the public will remember the statements we are making and the decisions we will subsequently take. So, we want to make sure that the executive has all the opportunity to answer to all of these points that are coming up."
The committee has requested several documents to support their work, including a list of the company's shipments over the past six months, information on the number of employed Liberian citizens, local content details, and an overall performance report, among others.
The hearings involved lively discussions with the participation of several lawmakers, including Representatives Acarous Gray (District #8, Montserrado County), Vincent Willie (District #4, Grand Bassa County), Dixon Seboe (District #16, Montserrado), P. Mike Jurry (District #1, Maryland County), Johnson Gwaikolo (District #9, Nimba County), and Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis (District #4, Montserrado County).
Robert Hynes, Director of Press at the House of Representatives, stated in a release that the public hearings mark a significant step toward ensuring transparency, accountability, and public participation in managing Liberia's valuable mineral resources. T"hese hearings provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to voice their opinions, concerns, and recommendations regarding the MDA, aligning it with the best interests of the Liberian people and international mining sector best practices," Hynes said.
The House Joint Committee encourages active participation from stakeholders, including civil society organizations, community leaders, and concerned citizens, through written memoranda and attending the scheduled sessions. All input received will be thoughtfully considered in the committee's deliberations.
The public hearings come shortly after the Liberian Senate's approval of the Restated and Amended MDA, forwarding it to the House of Representatives for concurrence. The Senate's findings indicate that this First Amendment to the Restated Mineral Development Agreement offers increased community benefits, surface rental fees, equity ownership, and financial advantages.
Furthermore, the Senate noted that Liberia will see a substantial boost in employment, rising from 3,500 jobs in the Restated and Amended MDA to 4,000 jobs in the First Amendment. The company also plans to expand its operational area as part of the First Amendment, leading to an increase in surface rental fees.
Hynes says the hearings continue as the House Joint Committee reviews the Restated and Amended MDA, aiming to ensure that "Liberia's mineral resources contribute to sustainable development, job creation, and improved livelihoods for all Liberians."