Liberia: ‘Illicit Mining Activities on the Increase’ – Mines and Energy Minister Discloses

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MONROVIA – The Minister of Mines and Energy Gesler Murray says the increase in illicit mining activities across the country is denying the Government of Liberia (GOL) from generating millions of dollars in revenue collection.

Minister Murray blamed the situation on the abuse of mining license exclusively set aside for Liberians and the signing of Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) between the locals and owners of companies without the involvement of the Ministry.

He made these comments at a forum on Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) and Sustainable Development in Liberia held at a local hotel in Monrovia recently.

The forum was organized by the University of Paris, International Growth Center (IGC) and the Institute for Quality Research and Development (IQRD).

He pointed out that the formalization of ASM in Liberia has been giving “sleepless nights” to authorities at the ministry, noting that the sector has not been formalized in Liberia for a prolong period of time.

Minister Murray indicated that though government, through the ministry issues different kind of licenses for ASM mining in Liberia, illegal mining activities continue to be on the increase.

He made specific reference to illicit mining activities ongoing in Gbarpolu County.

He said though Class C license is restricted to only Liberians, foreign partners are getting involved clandestinely bringing in heavy duty equipment to operate.  

Ownership between locals and owners

Minister Murray further observed competing ownership between local residents and owners of most mining sites.

Minister Murray pointed out that as a result of the situation, the locals have engaged into the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with companies in return for some developments in their respective communities.

He noted that though the move is not bad, the exclusion of the Ministry of Mines and Energy from these negotiations is uncalled for.

 “We are resolved to solve ASM problems and we want to admonish all stakeholders to look at what the mining law says. To me, it’s not late to formalize the ASM sector even though we grant licenses. Class C license is restricted to only Liberians, but nowadays you have foreign partners being invited to operate mining plants using heavy duty equipment. We will look into this very seriously”.

Revising the law

Minister Murray used the occasion to disclose that the Liberian government is in the process of revising the 2000 mineral and mining law of Liberia, which according to him, is “very, very old”.

He noted that it has been more than two decades now since the law was formulated to set standards for the safeguarding of Liberia’s minerals.

He emphasized that “new elements” will be infused in the new mineral and mining law of Liberia to make it more “responsive to current day realities”.

Minister Murray stressed that the modernizing of the mineral and mining law of the country will checkmate and help discourage the signing of MOUs with companies by the locals without the input of the government.

Growing national budget

He said as the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government targets a billion dollars budget, the ministry intends to immensely contribute towards its attainment.

He noted that though it remains challenging due to the growing wave of illicit mining in the country, steps and strategies will be implored to address the situation.

Minister Murray maintained that the ministry will take steps to legalize the operations of these illegal mining companies that have not been captured in its data base.

He indicated that in keeping with the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), the government is heavily depending on the mining sector to also provide job opportunities for Liberians and help grow the country’s economy.

Setting up task force

Minister Murray disclosed that a Special Mineral Taskforce will be setup very soon to combat against illicit mining activities in Liberia and help grow the country’s national envelope.

He added that the taskforce will comprise of members from the Ministries of Finance and Development Planning, Mines and Energy, Labor, National Defense and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA).

According to him, the inclusion of the LRA will ensure that illicit miners are issued licenses in an effective and efficient manner.

Minister Murray further stressed the need for the reservation of the tropical and rainforest Liberia currently possesses in the region and streams that are being polluted due to dredge operations along the river banks.

He further urged the participants to brainstorm with “open mindedness” in a bid to improve Liberia’s mining sector and boost sustainable developments.

 The forum brought together scores of stakeholders in the mining sector from Liberia and elsewhere.

It was occasioned by various presentations on Artisanal and Small-scale Mining Policy Reform and Development in Sierra Leone, Exploration Study in Small-scale Mining Sector in Liberia-expanding credit for artisanal and small scale gold miners and a panel discussion on the ASM sector in Liberia MRU member states: challenges and opportunities.

It also unveiled a census on villages and a pilot survey report on Artisanal and Small-scale Mining in Gbarpolu County in Liberia.

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