Liberia: High License Fees, Delay in Acquiring Renewed License, and Porous Borders Responsible for Illegal Artisanal Mining￼
Monrovia – A new study by Green Advocates International has outline several factors responsible for the proliferation of illegal artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in Liberia – and top among them include the high fees charged by authority for granting artisanal license ($150 license fee, $150 survey fee and $50 “Clearance fee”), limited knowledge about productive and safe mineral recovery techniques and the inability to access credit or microloans through which mining activities can be financed.
Other factors responsible for the illegal ASM, the study add, include limited knowledge about mining law and existing rights within the law, complex and often convoluted supply-chains which often make miners, supporters and shovel boys susceptible to exploitation (not getting a fair price for their minerals); lack of clear meaning on who a supporter is, and what their role is; low level of knowledge among miners about diamond value and pricing; difficulty in accessing diamond and gold appraisal/valuation services; and lack of a traceable mineral supply-chain and formalized market linkages through which to produce and sell minerals.
The study, entitled, “The ‘State of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) in Liberia pointed out that the porosity of the Liberian borders with neighboring countries and the nature of the commodities associated have been responsible for the huge gap and leakage experienced in the enforcement of the internal control of diamonds.
It is estimated that there are over 500 illegal border crossings exit between Liberia and its three neighbors, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire.
Citing the World Bank, the study added there are approximately 100,000 artisanal and small-scale miners in Liberia, but there are far fewer active ASM license holders.
Other contributing factors, the report noted, include the longer time required to renew mining licenses which discourages miners from getting or renewing their licenses.
The study was presented at a forum with policy makers, civil society actors, development partners, mining associations and affected mining communities on Tuesday in Monrovia.
Speaking at the launch of the study, the head of programs at Green Advocates International, Francis K. Colee said without proper regulation, the desired improvement needed to uplift the ASM sector will not be met. He said if things continue the way they are, the ASM sector will not be financially viable for post-war economic recovery and there will no improvement in the lives of the miners and the mining communities, and the environment will continue to suffer from degradation or to make the ASM sector financially viable for post-war economic recovery
“In Liberia people are mainly using diggers and shovels to get involved with artisanal and small-scale mining. The process is very tedious and involves lots of digging. And all this work is to recover just a small stone in the soil. But the biggest problem in the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining sector is the lack of regulation,” Mr. Colee said.
He added: “without a regulation specific to the ASM sector, we will not be able to bring about the desired improvement needed to uplift the ASM sector, the miners, the mining communities and the environment or to make the ASM sector financially viable for post-war economic recovery.”
Outlining series of recommendations, Green Advocates International, among other things, called on the Government to design mining regulations unique to the ASM sector in Liberia. This, the report said, will ensure clearly defined licensing and renewal procedures, rights, obligations and responsibilities of applicants and licensee. The regulations, the study added, will also defined the authorities and obligations of mining officials, human and environmental rights, gender issues, benefit-sharing scheme for artisanal mining that promotes community development and procedural rights of aggrieved applicants or licensees;
The study noted that stability in the Artisanal Small-scale Diamond Mining (ASDM) legal framework will create confidence for investors in other larger economic sectors, such as large-scale mining, agriculture and forestry. Also, regulatory stability will improve social stability, which will contribute to long-term investment in the ASDM and other long-term planning options; and
Citing the OECD 2013 report, Green Advocates International noted that without a regulatory environment that enables and promotes responsible mining and legitimate trade, or social protection, ASM diggers and miners, as well as the environment will remain vulnerable to exploitation by illicit actors.
Green Advocates also called for the Creation of laws and regulations in the ASM sector based on a coordinated legal strategy. “Already different disciplines of laws and regulations come together in the ASM sector: mining licenses, communal and private property rights in land, environmental licenses, evaluation and management of social and environmental impacts, taxation and fees, access to financing and financial support, development of techniques, health and safety issues, and marketing. So, the ASM sector has implications for several laws, including the mining law, environmental law, tax law, private property law, customary law, commercial law, etc;”
To effectively formalize the ASM sector, it noted that the Liberian government needs multiple ministries and agencies to commit to improved economic, environmental and social performance of ASM; adding gender concerns need to be built into formalization efforts.
Develop Comprehensive ASM policy
As a necessary first step towards formalization of the ADM sector, the report also called on the Government of Liberia to consider a long-term policy vision and clear strategy to guide its development. This strategy has to be captured in an Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Policy (ASMP);
In addition, it called for the proper integration of ASM formalization process with Liberia’s socio-economic development plans.
It called for the Integration of ASDM policy on different levels with public policy relating to social, environmental, labor, health and safety, economic, organizational, and technical issues. This, it noted, will create better conditions for ASM to grow and improve and contribute to long-term stability in the mining sector.
It also called for the reduction of the high cost of artisanal mining licenses as a way of reducing extreme economic burden on miners; remove of additional 2% tax by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) which is contributing to a decrease in export figures in the country; shorten the time involved in the processing of applications for mining licenses so that the operator or license holder can return to their work in the mining sector as soon as possible.
“A reduction in processing of applications will also reduce the additional transactional cost to the miner and serve as a motivation for obtaining and renewing licenses for their claims; and the government of Liberia and its partners should address the poor working conditions faced by artisanal miners. Their working conditions have been disproportionately compounded further by their vulnerability to the COVID-19 pandemic due to limited access to funding, health and social infrastructure.”