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Mining sector rots in syndicate

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-Official cites incarceration of Inspectors

What appears to be a complex syndicate allegedly condoned by some local and high placed officials is said to be shielding and enriching illegal foreign miners while interfering with Liberian mine inspectors’ operations as the mine sector rots in illegal mining activities.

Mr. Emmanuel O. Sherman, Deputy Mines and Energy Minister for Operations claimed during a live talk show on OK FM Thursday evening, 6 May that when mine inspectors carry out operations and make arrests, some former lawmakers would ask mine officials to leave the people.

Mr. Sherman did not include current lawmakers in his discussion, but indicated that when arrests are made, the former lawmakers who had pleaded for their people’s release would later call the Mines and Energy Ministry to appear at the Capitol and then complain about illicit mining activities that are ongoing in the country.

“Yes, and you know? Syndicate, and you know? So that is what we are trying to break, but it is, to break it needs the collaborative efforts of not only the Ministry of Mines and Energy, but the security apparatus … Internal Affairs, you know, local people, we all need to work together and do that. But because we are in charge so we take the heat,” he said when asked if there was a syndicate.

“And then moreover, the local people are not willing, you know, to get these guys out … and then it comes back to us at the ministry. We do not have control over our borders, alright, yeah,” Mr. Sherman continued.

In one case, Minister Sherman said his inspectors in Grand Bassa county had arrested some Ghanaians and took them to a police station in the county. Following that arrest, Sherman said a chief called him and said the Ghanaians were his people.

“Most of the time imagine our inspectors sometimes when they go out there, they are even arrested and incarcerated from the traditional side, yeah. That’s what happens, it’s a serious thing,” the Deputy Mines Minister said.

He explained that when mines inspectors went out along the Tuma River to get rid of the Ghanaians who were mining there, the local authorities in that area ordered the inspectors not to go there because they were about to put their country’s devil outside. Tuma River connects Bokomu and Gbogolala Districts in Gbarpolu County, western Liberia.

The local officials having denied the mines inspectors access, Sherman said the Ghanaians are still at that river working, adding: “We banned dredges but they have dredges there, other places.”

He lamented that the operations of these illicit miners affect and pollute the streams from which villagers fetch their drinking water.

The Mines and Energy official stated further that there is a serious security implication when you have foreigners enter your bush and carry out dredging because “those guys come in with drugs.”

Regarding payment of mining agents, Mr. Sherman said some of these agents are getting [US] $200.00. He further said the Ministry of Mines and Energy budget of “pitiful” US$1.7m dollars can only pay salaries, adding that there is nothing on that budget for operations and logistics.

He recalled that in 2018, the Mines and Energy Ministry formed a special task force and held a series of meetings with the Liberia Immigration Service, the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA) and Defense Ministry, and carved strategies on how to raid the bushes of illicit mining operations.

He said the Mines and Energy Ministry was looking for somewhere around half a million dollars to carry out the operation, but it could not be implemented due to lack of funding

Having highlighted the security challenges, Mr. Sherman said it’s good to have the Defense Ministry involved, while Mines and Energy is in the background providing the database and technical information about where the illicit miners are.

“We need to form a joint task force, right, that will go and raid these places like what is being done in Ghana, yes. [Get] army people on it, you know? They’re afraid of [the] army, you know?” he noted.

In previous operations he said they used the police and officers from the LDEA, but most of the time there is a challenge. According to Minister Sherman, Liberia’s mining law is over 20 years old, noting that it was enacted in 2000 during a time when people were just using Class “C” License for mining activities.

He said the ministry is seeking funding from the World Bank, and once the law is finalized and amended, detailed mining regulations would be made.

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