Liberia: Senate Pro-Tempore Suggests Several Reforms in Mining Sector for Possible Contribution to the Nat’l Budget


MONROVIA – The Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Sen. Albert Chie, has admonished his colleagues to look into the latent potency of the extractive industry and how it can heavily support the country’s National Budget.

In his remarks at the opening of the Final Session of the 54th Legislature, Sen. Chie said the Sitting would be devoted to mainly the discussions centered around the economic issues that would impact the 2023 National Budget. He said the Senate will be keen on the performance of the 2022 National Budget – being the biggest Budget in history. “This will determine whether an increment or decrease in the total Budget figure for 2023 will be justifiable,” he said.

Sen. Chie informed his colleagues that the extractive industry can play a key role in the mobilization of domestic revenue for the National Budget. He said the industry holds significant potential for revenue generation. He named mining, logging, and commercial activities in palm farming, rubber, coffee, and fishery as areas that can help generate revenue for the country.

This, however, in the Pro-Tempore’s view would not be achieved unless transparency and accountability become the hallmark of the industry. He also stressed the need for the stimulation of economic activities in the host communities to help lift the local communities out of poverty.

To achieve transparency in the sector, he said the Senate has already begun holding discussions with the Liberia Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI) to understand their challenges in ensuring transparency in the mining, logging and other extractive sectors. “We urge them to include artisanal extractive sectors in their work programs. We also assured the Secretariat of the commitment of the Senate to support their work. We affirm and confirm this commitment today,” he said.

Sen. Chie was keen on how small and medium mining sectors have excellent potential as sources of revenue for the government and the role they could play in improving livelihoods in communities.

He mentioned that there is a need for reforms in the small and medium mining sectors in order to enjoy their full potential.

He lamented: “Foreigners have invaded the sector, aided sometimes by some of the local authorities in the mining areas. Some private sector actors with means also participate in the sector without paying their correct dues to the government.

“Besides gold and diamond, the traditional minerals that have been mined for decades, the artisanal or small to medium scale mining sector in the last few years have been the upspring of heavy mineral beach sands which contain sources minerals for titanium, thorium and other rare earth. There have been also reports of small-scale mining of the mineral columbite-tantalite in some parts of the country.

“What revenue from royalty on these minerals is available for budgetary appropriation?”

The President Pro-Tempore further lamented that the Ministry of Mines and Energy is struggling to control the widespread illicit mining and the associated smuggling of mineral commodities.

To curtail this, he commended an inter-agency effort involving the security apparatus and other relevant authorities like the Liberia Revenue Authority and with financial appropriation. This, he said should be done in addition to revamping the Ministry of Mines and Energy’s Department of Mines and the Inspectorate Division which are responsible for licensing, regulation and monitoring of the artisanal mining sector.

He also mandated the Senate Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy and Environment and the Public Accounts Committee to look vigorously at the small to the medium-scale mining sector.

He also mentioned that while there is some order in the large-scale mining industry due to the monitoring of production and exports, host communities and workers often complain of unfair treatment.

He lashed at the petroleum industry for almost being non-existent despite the existence of NOCAL and the LPRA. He wondered why there has been no news of bid rounds, direct negotiation for petroleum acreages and subsequently no contribution to the National Budget.

“The downstream petroleum sub-sector operated essentially by the LPRC has had its own regulatory and institutional reform and other technical issues for which its contribution to the National Budget has not been impressive,” he said.

Senator Chie further called for the scrapping off of duty-free on petroleum products for the government. In his view, government institutions and functionaries are not the true beneficiaries of this privilege. He said scrapping this privilege for all three branches of government will save the government millions of dollars for the National Budget. He, therefore, urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to study this and if found appropriate, prepare the needed legislation or amendments to that effect.

Still on the extractive industry, the Senate Pro-Tempore recalled that logging companies in the past years were instrumental in helping to keep feeder roads intact; unfortunately, logging companies now look up to the government to maintain the roads they ply. He said despite the logging sector having high potential as a revenue earner, it has performed very poorly over the last 17 years and would, therefore, need some reforms in the sector to remedy the current situation.

He commended the government for using its own resources and funds from bilateral and multilateral sources to support investments in cash crops, especially rubber, coffee, and cocoa. He mentioned that Liberia would experience growth in the sector and generate revenue for the National Budget if there is an increased investment and appropriate monitoring and regulation are ensured.

At the same time, he bemoaned that land tenure and host community-concessionaires conflict continue to hamper the huge potential that private palm plantations can provide the Budget.