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Labor Ministry to fine Bea Mountain

Located in Grand Cape Mount County, western Liberia, Bea Mountain Mining Corporation has been in a series of violent conflicts with residents of its concession area who have been demanding better working conditions for locals and other social benefits.

Monrovia, March 28, 2024: Liberia’s Labor Minister Cllr. Cooper W. Kruah has announced a plan to impose fines against Bea Mountain Mining Corporation (BMMC) for violating the Decent Work Act of 2015. 

Minister Kruah revealed Wednesday, 27 March 2024, that BMMC has failed to adhere to several Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) and collective agreements signed with the workers’ union, prompting the imposition of the fines.

This announcement comes after a bloody protest on 29 February 2024 in Tawore District, Grand Cape Mount County, where residents went against BMMC. The protest resulted in fatalities during clashes with the Liberia National Police (LNP).

In response to the escalating situation, the Government of Liberia intervened by withdrawing state security personnel from BMMC’s operational site in Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County, on 7 March 2024.

Subsequently, a ministerial committee comprising officials from the Ministries of Justice, Internal Affairs, and Labor convened with citizens, stakeholders, and BMMC management on 23 March 2024 to address labor-related grievances.

Following these discussions, Minister Kruah announced during the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) special briefing on Wednesday that a 12-member team led by Executive for Manpower and Human Resources Steven S. Moluba was dispatched to BMMC’s facilities on 21 March 2024 for a week-long investigation. 

The team’s mandate included verifying reports of labor violations, such as worker underpayment, inadequate safety measures, lack of insurance, and the absence of valid work permits and contracts.

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The investigation uncovered alarming disparities, with Liberian employees reportedly earning significantly less than their foreign counterparts for similar work.

The investigation also found the Liberians were working in hazardous conditions without proper protective gear or insurance coverage.

Minister Kruah emphasized the need for equal treatment of all workers, regardless of nationality, and pledged to enforce Liberian labor laws rigorously. 

He affirmed the Ministry’s commitment to ensuring fair wages, safe working conditions, and adherence to labor regulations at BMMC and other mining companies operating in Liberia, including Western Cluster and ArcelorMittal.

Furthermore, Minister Kruah outlined the Ministry’s responsibilities under the Executive Law, which include collecting revenue from work permit fees and regulating employment terms and conditions, particularly under the Decent Work Act of 2015.

He reiterated the government’s stance on upholding labor laws, emphasizing penalties for employers found in violation, including fines ranging from $500 to $2000 for unlawful employment practices.

“Section 4 of the same regulations states that any formal sector employer who employs an agency without a work permit should pay a fine of US 2000, and for the employer, US 1000 for the unlawful employee.”

In closing, Minister Kruah underscored the Ministry’s dedication to promoting equal opportunities for Liberian workers, ensuring their safety and prosperity, and prioritizing their employment in the country’s labor market. 

He urged foreign businesses to comply with Liberian laws. He affirmed that positions in the country would be filled by qualified Liberians whenever possible, which was in line with the government’s commitment to national workforce development.

Additionally, Mr. Steven S. Moluba, the head of the investigative team tasked with probing labor violations at Bea Mountain Mining Corporation, also revealed that during their investigation, the team engaged with the workers’ union and management, conducting site visits to gain firsthand insights.

Among the revelations presented by Moluba, it was disclosed that out of the 36 Liberian contractors scrutinized during the investigation, 18 had commenced their employment in 2021, while others had joined between 2021 and 2022.

Furthermore, upon interviewing workers underground, it was discovered that the highest wage received by a Liberian worker in such hazardous conditions amounted to a mere $360 USD per month. 

Shockingly, Moluba highlighted the absence of any life insurance coverage for Liberian workers operating in such perilous environments.

The investigation also extended to non-Liberian workers, with 987 individuals under scrutiny. Of concern was the revelation that 185 Turkish and other non-Liberian workers lacked the necessary work permits, raising questions about the legality of their employment.

Moluba emphasized that such practices directly violated Article 17 of the regulations, which stipulate preferences for Liberian workers in the workforce. 

Additionally, he called upon management to provide a comprehensive internal payroll for further scrutiny.

Out of the 38 grievances submitted by protesters, Moluba revealed that 13 were related to labor issues affecting Liberian workers. 

However, he acknowledged the commitment expressed by BMMC management to address all thirteen counts of concern.

In conclusion, Moluba reiterated the team’s observation that BMMC had failed to adhere to several MOUs and collective agreements signed with the workers’ union, signaling impending fines from the Ministry for violations of the Decent Work Act of 2015. —Press release

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