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Travesty against the State

-Marshall residents resist black sand mining

Mining of black sand here by Chinese is angering locals who describe the act as travesty against the Republic of Liberia, thus seeking intervention from government.

By Emmanuel wise Jipoh

Marshall, Liberia, April 8, 2024 – Illicit sand mining is skyrocketing here – especially with the recent discovery of black sand valued at millions of dollars that the Chinese are illegally mining.

But residents and owners of land on which the Chinese are illegally operating describe the act as disastrous, calling on government to “wake up” and protect the area from plunder.

The environmental havoc of black sand mining has raised serious economic concern among locals.

According to them, the activities of these illegal miners are destroying their land and having a devastating impact on the environment. They lament that this is a travesty against the State, as dredging is crisscrossing the Mangrove swarm “(Wetland)” preserved for Liberia’s environmental benefits.

Mr. Alex C. Gontee, former Vice Presidential Candidate for the Grassroots Development Movement (GDM), and his wife, Mrs. Talloh K. Gontee, own a portion of 16.5 acres of land being illegally occupied by an unnamed Chinese company in Marshall, lower Margibi County.

According to them, despite a government ban on exporting black sand, a group of Chinese still operates at night, infringing on their land while exporting what they describe as strategic minerals to China.

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The Gontee Family explained to the NEW DAWN on Saturday, April 6, 2024, that the strategic mineral, “if protected and preserved by the government, could bring immense economic benefits and improve livelihoods of citizens.

Mr. Gontee stressed the need for the government’s urgent intervention while urging the immediate removal of the Chinese to protect their environment from havoc.

He laments that illegal mining and inland dredging on their premises could lead to future disasters if not immediately halted.

Similar to this, Madam Julia Mionyah Karmo, who owns 30 acres of encroached land, calls for swift government action to expel companies involved in illicit mining across the country.

She calls for the government’s prohibition against black sand mining by unscrupulous individuals in the country, warning that if such activities are not halted sooner by the Liberian government, they could threaten not only the environment but also become detrimental to future economic sustainability and the livelihoods of citizens.

Packaged sand for export

Madam Karmo, highlighting the value and usage of black sand in the global market, discloses that a ton of black sand in a 25kg rice bag costs about US$3,000 and that such a quantity unscrupulously taken away by foreign nationals is detrimental to Liberia’s future.

“We have done some research; one of these bags of black sand is sold for USD 3,000.00 in the world market. How much is Liberia benefiting? Nobody knows as the use of black sand is unknown to us,” Ms. Mionyan narrated.

Meanwhile, in an effort to contact the Chinese authority occupying the Land in Marshall, Margibi County, about their alleged involvement in illegally dredging black sand overnight and exporting it to China, the heads of the unnamed Chinese Company, Mrs. Caro Qin Huang and Mr. Qin Huang, denied any wrongdoing.

They indicate that they have immediately stopped mining in Marshall since the government halted the activity.

Mrs. Caro Qin Huang dismissed claims that they are operating illegally and stated that they have all the documents granted to them by the Ministry of Mines and Energy to carry out legal Mining at said portion of Land.

According to her, the Chinese Company obtained the land from said property owners in a limited agreement that she couldn’t disclose at press time.

In addition to violating environmental regulations, the company’s operation has raised questions about unfair labor practices, as local employees complain of hardship as they endure exploitation by the Chinese.

They complain of marginalization in horrible conditions, earning a minimum wage of Five United States Dollars per day and $120 monthly amid lack of accommodation, inadequate healthcare, and defaulted social responsibility. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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