Liberia: Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners Calls for More Awareness on Harmful Mining Practices

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Ganta, Nimba County – Artisanal and small-scale miners participating in the second leg of the multi-stakeholders’ workshop on environment monitoring and human rights have called on the Government of Liberia and partners for more awareness on how to eradicate harmful mining activities in the country.

Speaking to reporters, Sande Kiadii, an artisanal miner from Varney Peai mining site in Tappita stressed that there’s a need for more training workshops or tutorials so as to enable miners understand the issue of illegal mining or harmful mining activities.

“Because there are plenty of people down there, they don’t understand most of the issues; they just do whatever they are told to do; how you will look at a deep pit and tell someone to go inside of it without anything to protect them? A Lot of people are dying on mining sites daily and not all of them are not being reported,” averred Kiadii.

He stated that one of their major challenges at the moment is the lack of sophisticated tools to make mining easy.

“Everything we do down there is hard labor; we do not have those advanced tools to help us drill; we use shovels, wheelbarrows, diggers and other people’s machines to drill,” explained Kiadii.

When asked about the issue of safeguarding the environment, Sandy agreed that protecting the environment is important and, in most cases,, miners tend to harm themselves first as a result of harmful mining practices.

“For example, the living conditions on that side are not suitable; latrines and places people use as bathrooms are not well protected and when it rains everything mixes together,” he said.

He is however calling on the media community and those in authority to take out time to visit various mining sites so as to see the reality of some of the issues he talked about.

“We want you to tell the government to assign transparent and accountable people; let their inspectors do more; let them give the proper report from the field because most times they are compromised by owners of these sites and they tend to not give the right report,” stressed Kiadii.

Also speaking, the Secretary for Tchien mining cooperative in Grand Gedeh county, Teta W. Johnson, like Sandy is calling on the government to do more awareness on safety measures in safeguarding themselves from disasters.

“Most of the time, disasters can take place and we lose lives before we can see the government coming there; we need people to educate us the miners on the risks that take place at the mining site because if we are not educated, we will not be able to safeguard ourselves,” stated Teta.

According to her, most of the people in her organization are small scale miners with class C licenses.

As it relates to the issue of other nationals getting licensed and practicing harmful mining activities, Teta confirmed the allegation adding that most times ‘Cash violence’ is what foreigners used on local and national governments to operate in such a manner.

“What I’ve observe is that those Ghanaians sometimes will use cash and you know that using cash to have easy access is one of our greatest problem in this country; we the class C miners are not up to their level and because of that the authorities can leave them to operate to do their own thing,” she explained.

Winston Nyeswah also a small-scale miner operating from the Gbabo mining site in Grand Gedeh county, is calling on government to help them[miners] with advanced equipments to allow them work on hilly land because “the flats are finishing now so we are engaging hills.”

“This is hard for us, so we need tools like the excavator; if we are about to dig a hill site, we don’t shovel easily, it requires us using machines,” said Nyenswah.

Speaking to the issue of human rights and abuse, Nyenswah explained that miners tend to be violent to one another.

“People are stabbing one another; we are appealing to the government to help in resolving these issues so that we can do our mining in a peaceful way,” he explained.

He continued: “We ask the government to always organize training workshops like this one so that we can learn from it and get back to our various sites to educate our brothers and sisters who were not opportune to be here today.” 

Representing the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Assistant Minister William Wallibo stated that the artisanal and small-scale mining sector of Liberia is experiencing free fall making it difficult to regulate activities in the sector.

“The reason for the difficulty is that we have had logistical problems and at the same time the interference of local/traditional people in mining activities; and we have also had the influx of Ghanains and other nationals like the Chinese,”stated Asst. Min Wallibo who added that the reason for the influx is because of a moratorium placed on ASM activities in Ghana.

The Asst. Minister is however holding Local leaders responsible for the influx and operation of other nationals in the ASM sector

“Every village you enter, every river they are trying to occupy and as they are doing it, they are doing it with the consent of our local leaders/traditional people; our inspectors have encountered a number of problems in reaching these areas because traditional people will tell them to stop,” he accused.

He continued: “Those dredges that we have banned in Liberia, they have encouraged them and are now taking money for those dredges and so nobody coming to the ministry of mines and energy and our inspectors have been prohibited from doing their job.”

The multi stakeholders training workshop on environmental monitoring and human rights for the ASM sector is organized by the Environment Protection Agency in collaboration with the Ministry of Mines and Energy with support from the United Nations Development Program through the Environmental Governance Program funded by SIDA.

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