House of Representatives Summons Mines and Energy Minister over increasing Illicit Mining in Liberia

Minister of Mines and Energy, Gesler E. Murray

MONROVIA – In the wake of the increasing illegal mineral mining activities across Liberia, the House of Representatives has voted unanimous to summon the Minister of Mines and Energy, Gesler E. Murray and his principal deputies to appear before its Plenary.

Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh – 00231880881540 / 02310777769531 / [email protected]

The Plenary is the highest decision-making body of the House of Representatives and wants Minister Murray and his team at the Mines and Energy Ministry to appear on Thursday, May 16, 2019 to show reasons behind the frequent illicit mining and to outline measures they are putting in place to discontinue the practice.

Plenary’s decision was based on a motion filed by Rep. Mariamu Fofana (Lofa County District #4) which derived from a communication from Rep. Matthew Joe (Grand Bassa County District #3) seeking the acquiescence of the House to invite Minister Murray to state what the ministry to explain the cause of the proliferation of illicit mining across the country and state measures the ministry is doing to put stop to the illegal activity.

In his communication, Rep. Joe noted 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 Gboanipea Gold Mine near Tappita.

He revealed that on a recent visit to Grand Bassa County, specifically in District No. Four and Five respectively, he saw dredges over the Timbo and the St. John Rivers being operated by Ghanaians and when he inquired whether they were licensed, their response were no.  

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

These plethora of illicit mining activities, he said are defrauding government thousands of United States dollars in revenue.

“The Ministry of Lands, Mines and energy was created in 1972 by act of Legislation which principal duties are to monitor the mining sector of Liberia and to administer the new mineral and mining laws of Liberia which was approved and became effective in April of 2000,” he writes.

‘It would appear to me that with the frequent illicit mining going on throughout the length and breadth of this country that the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy is not care about putting in measures to discontinue such act.”

Meanwhile, following the reading of Rep. Joe’s communication by House Chief Clerke, Mildred Sayon and a motion for deliberations, several lawmakers including the Chairman on Lands, Mines, Energy and Natural Environment, Rep. Vincent Willie applauded Rep. Joe for his farsightedness and called for the inclusion of the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) and the Liberia National Police.

Giving his expert opinion, Rep. Willie noted that the decision of the Executive branch to place the supervision of all Class A licensed miners under the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs may have opened the floodgates to the illicit mining activities. He added that the LIS and the Police should also accompanied the Ministry of Mines and Energy’s officials for questioning.

Illegal gold miners crowded at the Kartee’s village gold mine in Gboanipea near Tappita shortly before the mine collapsed in February 2019

Despite Rep. Willie’s plea, the movant, Rep. Fofana noted that it was prudent that plenary invite the Ministry of Mines and Energy’s team first before further action.

Also speaking on the floor, Rep. Johnson Gwaikolo (Nimba District #9), who chairs the Committee on Education noted that his constituent is also being affected by the menace and called for a prompt intervention by the House.

“We experience lots of illegal mining involving Ghanaians. They move from rivers to rivers and from creeks to creeks in large numbers. For us to be experiencing mining activities without any return to the country is a matter of concern,” Rep. Johnson intoned.

Bong County District #6 Representative Edward W. Karfia stressed that the situation was of national concern owing to the security and environmental implications associated with it.

He added that it was imperative for Minister Murray to appear before plenary to state why he is not living up to his promised he made to that august body last year in tackling illicit mining.

Dredges placed on the Cestos River in Gbi-Doru (Nimba District #9) by miners believe to be Ghanaians nationals 

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.

However, it seems that the ministry is overwhelmed by the issue of illicit mining as the illegal activity is found all across Liberia.

In February more than 40 people were trapped under the debris at an illicit gold mine, the Kartee Village Gold Mine in Gboanipea near Tappita, Nimba County.

Five bodies were recovered and few survivors were treated at the Jackson F. Doe Referral Hospital in Tappita.

Despite President Weah commissioning a joint disaster management team, there was no report of rescuing any survivor.

Before the gold mine collapsed, two persons, Eric Barr and Oldpa Gbaysaygee were killed on January 1, 2019 under violent circumstances in Glahn Town, Gbi-Doru Administrative District. The two were believed to have been involved in illicit mining activities in the area.