MONROVIA – A survey conducted by Green Advocates International has revealed that Mining Communities in Liberia are not benefiting from the extraction of natural resources in their communities.
Report by Francis G. Boayue, [email protected]
In the report, Green Advocates noted that this could be a breeding ground for tension if nothing is done to address the situation.
Green Advocates Liberia aims to promote community-based institutions and efforts to contribute to democracy that respects and promote human rights and sustainable livelihood for vulnerable members of society through capacity building, research, awareness, advocacy and legal aid.
Over the weekend in Monrovia, GAI launched a dialogue with residents of affected mining communities in Liberia which aimed to build consensus on how best to recognize and promote community benefits from mining.
The event was part of activities marking the launch of the findings of a survey conducted in several communities affected by Artisanal and Small-Scale Diamond Mining (ASDM).
The Head of Programs, Mr. Francis Kemaworlee Colee said the lack of benefits from Liberia’s vast natural resources was one of the root causes of the Liberian civil war and all the legal reforms after the civil war have highlighted the issue of community benefits, emphasizing the need to improve land and property rights in the new Liberia.
As part of the survey, GAI made several field visits and interviewed community members who indicating that there was a lack of attention to the development challenges in their communities.
“Even the limited infrastructure we find, such as schools and hand pumps can be attributed to community members and outsiders; mainly NGOs, INGOs and some development partners, but there are hardly any direct benefits from mining,” said Colee.
The survey shows that unlike neighboring countries like Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire, there is no clear community benefit from ASDM in Liberia.
The research, he added, covered mining communities within three counties in Liberia including Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu, covering several communities including Lofa Bridge, Mano River Congo, Weajue, Weasua, among others.
“Our research report has revealed that these communities are not benefiting from Diamond Mining in Liberia,” he said.
In early 2000, the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on the export of diamonds from Liberia as one of the countries shortlisted as the origin of conflict diamond on the international market.
The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was established to help address the issue of conflict diamonds. Liberia agreed to help the international community in the fight against conflict diamonds. In order to join the KP, Liberia amended Part 1, Title 23 of the Liberian Code of Laws Revised (2000) and added a New Chapter 40, providing for the establishment and control of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for the Export, Import and Transit of rough diamonds.
In the report, GAI called for a national conversation on the distribution of mining benefits to local communities affected by diamond mining activities as a way of contributing to the development and prosperity of these affected communities.
It recommends increased awareness on the rights of community members in relations to Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) activities; while calling on the civil society to take proactive measures to educate ASM communities and the general public about their rights relevant to the mining sector covering environmental, economic, social and cultural rights.
These include the right to land, environmental, labor, food, health, water sanitation and hygiene, right to high conservation value (HCV) areas and places, women’s rights and child rights.
It added: “We need to engage in collective advocacy for the respect and protection of rights and provision of better and adequate benefits for ASM communities. We need to work with ASM communities and associations to use collective and evidence-based advocacy approaches to engage with the government and industry and other relevant stakeholders to promote a rights-based culture/approach in the ASM sector that will contribute to the meaningful development and prosperity of said communities.”
The head of Bed Rock Mighty Cooperative of Smith Town in Gbarpolu County, Sumowor Mulbah said no support is given to the communities where diamond is taking place. These communities are very poor with lack of access to basic services such as clinics, good roads and schools, he said.
Mulbah said the presence of aliens, mainly Ghanaians in the mining sector is causing tension between community members.
According to him, some local leaders collect money from these foreign miners and in turn, give them protection at the detriment of the community. These miners use dredges and Mercury which are causing both water pollution and land degradation; leaving the low land vulnerable to flood and landslide.
He also accused the Mining inspectors of being violent and unprofessional in implementing their responsibilities in the mining communities.”
“The mining inspectors demand unnecessary money from miners and are favorable to foreigners than locals. On several occasions they behave in a way characteristics of the war years – like the way rebels would enter towns or villages for example, at times they reportedly use firearms to terrify and instill fear in miners on visitation to mining sites,” he said.
“So we want a national conversation on the distribution of mining benefits to local communities affected by diamond mining activities as a way of contributing to the development and prosperity of mining communities.”