Liberia: Investigation Into Cyanide Spillage Finds MNG Gold Liable of Polluting Bong County

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Monrovia – A Turkish mining company operating in Bong County has been found liable for environmental degradation after “a catastrophic failure” of its tailing storage facility (TSF) on September 27, 2017, according to a report obtained by FrontPage Africa.

Report by Alpha Daffae Senkpeni, [email protected]

The company, MNG Gold Mining Ltd, was permitted to begin gold mining exploration on August 28, 2015 under the Environmental Protection Agency Permit no. EPA/EC/ESIA/001-0815 but failed to uphold international best practice in order to avert environmental pollution.

According to the report by the National Bureau of Concession (NBC) sent to the Liberian Senate, three million gallons of diverse toxic chemicals were released in the community by MNG and will remain in the environment for decades to come.

Some of the chemical spill into the community includes cyanide, mercury and lead, which are highly dangerous to the community residents, their water source and flora and fauna.

The report also accused the company of failing to make interventions during the chemical spill over, leaving numerous children and women in unattended corridors of the basic medical/nursing facilities without medical treatment.

An environmental investigation sanctioned by the Liberia National Police and implemented by a Ghanaian laboratory service company (SGS) discovered the gravity of the toxic spill.

During the investigation, locals of the Kokoya Community including the Chief and Chairman narrated the impact of the toxic spill on their community.

“The SGS Report is supplemented by a suite of video evidence, from the LNP, which we attach hereto on disk that succinctly buttresses the central environmental degradation findings as a result of the acts and omissions of MNG leading to the poisoning of the habitat for fish, birds and other natural resources that will be injured for many decades by MNG’s poisonous and toxic mining wastes,” the NBC states in the report to the Senate.

The investigation uncovered the “appalling harm inflicted upon the communities in the immediate spillage area and beyond” and the “MNG Management’s knowledge of the toxic chemicals in the affected communities” without any warning to the locals.

States the report: “At the post-spill chronology of events, MNG Management were aware there were dozens of people from the spillage area seeking medical treatment and took hours to put in place any treatment which could or should have been rushed in at the time of the spillage occurrence and its on-going effects.”

“This wanton, reckless and inconsiderate dispossession of the emergency medical needs of the community by MNG Management is another palpable finding supplementing those gathered and assessed in the SGS Report.”

The NBC also states that it is aware that toxic chemicals emanating directly from the MNG mines has been flowing into the adjacent St. John River which flows from the north to the south of Liberia.

“Our principal concern in this matter is to ensure the concessionaire’s compliance with the MDA, and where appropriate, to engage international environmental and chemical spill experts to further examine the effects of this spillage in the interests of the communities affected, ameliorating and remediating the impact on groundwater, soil, streams, waterways and agricultural land, specifically consistent with our mandate under the National Bureau of Concessions Act.”

The report suggests that the NBC is also assessing the comparisons of the international best practice and specific approaches to chemical spills and cyanide incidents that have occurred in other parts of the world.

Meanwhile, the NBC has made several recommendations including the application of the polluter-pays principle and a possible international litigation based on the “overwhelming magnitude of the pollution” to Liberia’s communities, land streams, rivers, flora and fauna.

In addition to the immediate pressing international law firm retention requirements, the NBC contends that as the sampling and analyses work was limited in time and scope. There is an immediate need for:

  • Calculating the unmonitored amounts of cyanide and other poisonous elements that may have been routinely lost to air and/or groundwater by both management acts or omissions and design failures of the Tailing Storage Facility
  • further analysis of the composition of the sediments in the spill area to determine the amount and types of cyanide present
  • monitoring of water quality in the wells to identify any delayed contamination;
  • monitoring of the long-term ecological effects of the spill on birds, mammals and water vegetation.
  • further analysis of the chemistry and toxic effects of cyanide, in particular the formation and stability of heavy metal cyanide complexes in the aquatic system, in order to better evaluate the fate and toxicity of cyanide and cyanide complexes in the spill area streams, swamps and rivers under normal conditions;
  • further analysis of the chemistry and toxic effects of cyanide and other toxic substances, in particular the formation and stability of heavy metal cyanide complexes in the aquatic system, in order to better evaluate the fate and toxicity of cyanide and cyanide complexes in the spill area streams, swamps and rivers under normal conditions;
  • further analysis of the heavy metals in the soil and sediments, in order to enable a reliable assessment of the long-term risks of the spill;
  • Notwithstanding the company EIA, to review construction concepts and operation procedures related to the treatment pond, including concepts of secondary security or retention of spills at the pond containing toxic effluents or other liquids.
  • In the spill area, consideration should be given to reviewing the drinking water supply systems for private households
  • Urgent immediate action, as a basis for long-term drinking water improvements, should include: – hydrogeological surveys as a basis for new water resources planning and
  • the installation of groundwater monitoring with private wells being included;
  • an inventory of existing private wells
  • an inventory of polluted areas, which endanger groundwater, surface and drinking water (entire spill area streams, swamps and river
  • the preparation of emergency water supplies for the communities affected
  • a health survey of the population in spill affected areas and proper monitoring of diseases caused by water pollution
  • a livelihoods survey determining how the spill has altered income generation/food security patterns and to propose a rapid package of assistance for spill victim communities who can no longer use the stream, swamps, river or fields to generate an income or basic food security