Liberia: EPA, Bea Mountain Assure Public of Instituting Measures to Prevent Disasters Associated with Ammonia Nitrate amid Safety Concern

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Monrovia – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bea Mountain Mining Company (BMMC) have assured the public that stringent measures are being put in place to prevent any explosion or harm associated with ammonia nitrate used for mining activities.

FrontPageAfrica, in late August reported that a huge consignment of ammonia nitrate, about 4,000 metric tons, were imported into Liberia and stored at a heavily guarded area in the Port City of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.

The chemical, which was almost as twice as the one that caused the explosion in Beriut, Lebanon in September 2020 were brought to be used at the MNG Gold Mine in Kokoya, Bong County and BMMC’s New Liberty Goldmine in Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County.

At the time of the report, the EPA, the government office that supervises the import, export and use of chemicals, said it was unaware of the ammonia nitrate.

The report of the importation of the substance sparked public outcry, with some experts calling for the substance to be banned from Liberia.

However, at a joint news conference on Wednesday, the Executive Director of the EPA, Professor Wilson Tarpeh, alongside Mr. Roeland De Greef, Technical Manager of Bea Mountain, said the chemical is no longer stored at the site in Buchanan.

According to Prof. Tarpeh, the EPA’s team of technicians have visited and conducted a full-scale environmental monitoring of the facility and initiated measures required for the safe management and transportation of the chemicals to Bea Mountain and MNG Gold in Grand Cape Mount and Bong Counties respectively.

The goal, he said, is to ensure that the chemicals are adequately managed at the temporary holding facility and that the public safety is duly assured.

The EPA boss, speaking further, assured the public that it has scientists who have undergone several training courses on regulatory enforcement and management of hazardous chemicals under the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; and some staff who have handled projects under the Strategy Approach to Integrated Chemical Management (SAICM).

The EPA further dismissed report that the chemical is deadly and dangerous.

“It is important that we dismissed insinuations that the chemical is dangerous and has been banned,” the EPA said in a statement.

“Ammonium nitrate is derived from the reaction between ammonia and nitric acid. Ammonium Nitrate consumption is broken down as 78 percent for fertilizer applications and 22 percent for explosives. It is the main component of explosive used in mining activities all over the world and hasn’t been banned as reported. It is also used as main oxidizing salt in the explosives manufacturing worldwide.” 

The EPA further mentioned that importation of Ammonium nitrate here has been on-going since major mining companies like ArcelorMittal Liberia and BHP Billiton begun operations in Liberia.

These concession companies, it said, have used the chemical for controlled blasting for the past 10 years, contrary to reports that the use of the chemical is new in the mining sector in Liberia.

“We wish to unequivocally state that risk associated with the storage, production, distribution and use of pure ammonium nitrate is low and when handled correctly, there would be no uncontrolled explosion because the product itself is not combustible.”

Also speaking, the Supervisor of the EPA’s Environmental Research and Standards Laboratory, Rafael Sarji Ngumbu said the EPA and the concession companies have put in measures to properly handle the chemicals from explosions.

He said currently 5,000 metric tons of Ammonia nitrate have arrived but, unlike the previous batch, the EPA was aware of the importation of these new chemicals, and measures were put in place to ensure it is not exposed to residential areas or wetlands.

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