Liberia: Illicit Dredging, Mining On The Increase in Rivercess County

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Rivercess – Dredging and illicit mining activities are on the increase in Rivercess County, with little or nothing being done by the county and national authorities to curb the act, according to community leaders in affected communities.

In October 2019, the Ministry of Lands Mines and Energy banned the use of dredges in Liberian waters by both Liberians and foreign nationals.

Despite the government’s ban on dredge mining, the county remains greatly affected by unlawful mining.

Foreigners including Ghanaians and Chinese are reportedly being supported by inhabitants of the county to carry on dredge mining along the Cestor River.

Many residents claim these illegal activities have been ongoing for several years while local officials are being accused of aiding some of the illicit miners.

Bill Jimmy, Kpakweh Town chief, said residents of his town have complained to the local authority about the ongoing of dredging and illicit mining but there has been no response.   

He accused the County Superintendent J. BisMark Karbiah, Development Superintendent Amos G. Somah, the County Mining Agent and the county joint security of aiding the illicit mining.

“On several occasions, the County Superintendent and other local government officials have collected bribe from those involved with illicit mining in Rivercess County in order to grant them permission to carry out such an illegal act,” he said.

The Kpakweh Town Chief asserted that it is troublesome to have the county leadership siding with foreigners to exploit the country’s resources at the detriment of the ordinary citizens, while calling on the national government to speedily intervene.

Jimmy noted that if national government fails to intervene swiftly, he foresees the country losing resources worth millions of dollars.

At the same time, Bob Kofi Zah, Senior Paramount Chief of the county, called on the government to take immediate action against individuals engage in illicit mining in the county.

Chief Kofi Zah, who is also the spokesperson of the Traditional Council of Liberia, threatened to take traditional action to curb the situation, stressing that people of the county can no longer continue to sit and watch foreigners sweep away their resources why those that were given the authority to act in such direction do nothing.

At the same time a man believed to be the head of the Ghanaians miners, only identified as David, confirmed that their dredge mining in the Cesstos River is approved by the county administration. David claims that they pay regular due to the County Superintendent and the County Mining agent.

He wonders why the county authority will claim not to know about their operations when they pay over L$100,000 monthly as regular due to maintain their operation.

For his part, the head of a Chinese company “Jorin” that could not be identified by the Ministry of Mines and Energy said the Superintendent and some officials of the Ministry granted them permit to operate in the county.

The Chinese National, identified as Alvin Hongon, alleged that he was granted class ‘’B’’ mining license from the Ministry of Mines.

But Rivercess County Superintendent has refuted claims that he had been collecting money from illicit miners in the county.

Superintendent Karbiah said he had served a letter to the Chinese company, warning them to stop dredge mining within the county, but the firm has refused to adhere to his warning.

At the same time, he challenged those accusing him of collecting bribes from the illicit miners to provide evidence to substantiate their allegation.

Despite the Superintendent’s denial, a letter dated August 13, 2020 bearing the development superintendent signature instructed the Kpakweh Town chief to work along with Morris Kekeh, Rivercess Project Planner of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Phillip D. Toby, Assistant Superintendent for Development of Rivercess County, to identify the owners of the dredging machines being used in the community.

For his part, Assistant Minister for Mines at the Ministry of Mines revealed that the government is working out all modalities to curb the increase in dredge mining across the country.

Emmanuel Swen said that despite the government’s quest to put “a total end” to dredge mining on its waters, it remains seriously challenged, causing the country to lose millions of dollars annually.

Minister Swen added that many mining agents are volunteering which makes them susceptible to bribe.

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