LIBERIA:From Old Villages To Modern Towns – How Is Aureus Mining Changing Lives In Cape Mount?

After many years of civil unrest which devastated the country, the war ravaged nation of Liberia is gradually progressing in its post-war recovery programs, targeted at rebuilding the broken nation and lifting citizens out of poverty. The conflict did not only destroy the country, but also plunged the nation into poverty and economic backwardness.

In a bid to rebuild the country and its broken economy, the Government of Liberia has attracted US$16b in foreign direct investment. Many of the investments, especially in the extractive, mining and forestry sectors, serve as strong pillars for the government’s development agenda and recovery programs.

The government has already begun putting in place financial systems and measures to properly manage and utilize funds generated from public resources, for the greater good of the country and its population. Liberia has several development potentials in the extractive and mining industries.

Investment in mining sector has created job for many Liberians in the country. Economic activities and trade in many of the concessions continue to improve the lives of Liberians and reduce poverty.During the civil war years, the mining industry in Liberia was badly exploited by fighting forces. Proceeds from resources exploited were to fueled conflicts in many parts Liberia, including Kinjor and Larjor, in Grand Cape Mount County.
Kinjor and Larjor are two remote, but ‘gold-rich’ villages in Grand Cape Mount County.  

The villages are   located in north-west of Liberia and formed part of  Bea Mountain mining license area, referred to as the New Liberty Gold Deposit, which is 100% owned by Aureus Mining Company (AMC). The inhabitants of the two villages and parts surrounding had been engaged in artisanal and small-scale mining of gold and diamond to make life for their families. They slept in make-shift structures built of mud, sticks and plastic. Others slept in fox-holes on the mining site and defecated in the open.

There were absolutely no water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities in the area at the time. The lack of safe drinking water left the residents with on alternative, but to drink from the Mavor River, the same water they use for bathing and washing of gold.
Artisanal and Small-scale mining (ASM) refers to informal mining activities carried out using low technology or with minimal machinery. It is estimated that more than 100 million people worldwide rely on this sector for income, mainly in developing nations. In some areas, ASM takes place alongside large-scale and formal mining.-mf.org.
The remote villages, which played host to few inhabitants in the past decades, is gradually transforming into modern settlement as a result of work being performed by AMC.
Currently, AMC is constructing 325 housing units for residents of the two villages.

The construction is part of the company’s Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) and Community Development Plan (CDP) approved by the Government of Liberia.
The RAP and the CDP have been evaluated and are said to be in compliance with Liberian legislation, as well as International Finance Corporation and World Health Organization’s principles and standards.
As part of the RAP, the company has purchased 150 acres of land for the construction of the new homes for the community members.
Construction work on the site has been far-advanced with the completion of Church, School and Mosque.

The entire project is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2014.
The new homes will consist of two and four bedroom houses. The company said it will construct clinic and skill training centers for property owners of Kinjor and Larjor.
In an exclusive interview with the Informer, the General Manager of AMC,   Mr. Debah Allen, said the company is accelerating it work to meet the timeline for exploitation by March of 2015.
He said his company is committed to the full implementation of its RAP and CDP, so as to create better and conductive living condition for residents of the area.

He said the company has employed several youths of the area and intends to do more as soon as full mining operation begins.
As part of AMC committed to improving the lives of the citizenry, the company and the community have formed a timber sale cooperative, of which the company provides training, equipment and facility for the processing of timbers for sale to the company.

Allen said the company planned to initiate several cooperatives in the new village including agriculture, tailoring and vocational skills for residents of the affected communities.

He added that the company anticipates the purchasing agriculture products from the community as a mean of strengthening the capacities of small skilled farmers in the area.

He noted that upon the completion of the new village, the company will setup tailoring cooperative for women, in which, the company will contract them to sew safety jackets and other materials for workers of the company.

Visiting Kinjor in January, residents told this writer that life in that part of the country is gradually improving and economic actives in the region are increasing on a daily basis. They said life in the region has significantly improved in recent months, especially due to the presence of AMC.
The once remote village now enjoys communication due the construction of a GSM towel in the area.

During my visit to Kinjor, I noticed that the RAP of the company was highly welcomed by the community members.  Many   expressed excitements over the company’s gesture to provide them   with new and better homes.

However, while the company is carrying on construction work on the new site, it has reached an agreement with the community for their (Residents) temporary relocation, while the main site is being constructed.

Under the temporary arrangement which is separate from the RAP, the company provided each of the residents of affected community with sticks, zincs, nails, doors and window for the construction of a temporary home until their main homes are ready by later this year.

The company has also paid the cost of construction of the temporary homes and latrine facilities.
There are two categories of home/hut owners in Kinjor and Larjor. One group of people are referred to as the “yellow-paint,” (those who were present on the ground at the time the company surveyed and marked houses, plants and tree crops), and the other group of people is called, “Blue-paint” house/hut owners, (people who came to the villages  after the surveying and counting  processes were completed).

Those in the yellow-paint category will be given new and modern homes in the new village after the project is completed.  For instance, those owning two bed rooms hut/house in the old village, will receive two bed rooms house in the new village. Those with four bed rooms in the old village will receive similar number of room building in the new village.

The company has also provided additional land for 265 “blue-paint” holders. The land is currently being used to construct new and better home for those who migrated to the area after the counting process.

Mr. Boakai Swaray is the field Supervisor and a member of the community team. He spoke to this writer in Kinjor: “The company has provided this piece of land to the [blue-paint holders], and they have asked us to distribute the land among them.”

Swaray said: “each of the 265 household will receive land-space, zincs, sticks, planks and nails for the construction of a new home. The company will also pay for the workmanship and transportation cost of materials being used for the construction.”

During my visit to the new Kinjor Village, I observed the construction of over 15 hand pumps for use by the community. The company has also constructed over 10 latrines for use by the residents.

Work on the site is gradually progressing and the company measure is to make the new site a safe and secure place for the residents.
While in the new Kinjor Village, I also monitored the presence of a team of Liberians, mainly consisting of females, conducting feasibility study on water quality and level in the area.

King Basheru Sambolah is the youth Chairman of the village and Head of the Timber Cooperative, and he say: “The Company [AMC] has created lot of jobs for us, especially the youths. AMC has also empowered us to stand on our own by establishing a timber corporative for the community. With the help of the company, we produce and sell timbers to them, thus empowering the locals.”

Basheru furthered that the company has also constructed hand pumps and pit latrines for the community. He noted that the company is presently constructing a sport pitch to afford young people of the region explore their God-given talents in sports.

According to the youth Chairman, “the company is trying its best for the community, and as such, everyone, especially the young people, need to thank them.”

However, Basheru used the occasion to appeal to the company to fast-track the construction of the community clinic which, he said, when completed, will cater to the health needs of over 5,000 inhabitants of the area.

He also wants the company provide skills-training for his fellow young people who are not privileged to work with the company.
For his part, the Principal of Kinjor Public School (constructed by AMC), Varney J. Kemokai, saidthe new school has created a conductive learning environment for the students.

He described the newly constructed school as modern and it is the first of its kind in the history of the district.
Kemokai: “the school has over 400 students enrolled and the number is increasing by the days. Our students are very happy about the new campus as compared to the old one. The school is well built with comfortable classrooms and in a secured and quite learning environment.”

Kemokai said the Company is currently paying two of the instructional staff of the school and has promised to equip the school’s library.  He furthered pointed out that the school receives a monthly ration from a charitable group, Mary Meal to feed the students.

Miss Tenneh Brown, a resident of Kinjor said “I am happy to be in this town. The company has changed my life and I am happy. I work with the company and I am going to receive two houses from the company, for this I am happy and I want to be grateful.”

Ma Miatta Paasewe is a single mother with three children: “I don’t have a husband; my husband die during the war and I am left with the children,” she continued. “I am presently working with Aureus Mining and I thank God this company came to change our lives. My children are in school and they are doing very well and I want to thank God for this opportunity.”

Meanwhile AMC General Manager Allen said the temporary units are expected to be completed the close of February, 2014. He said some of the residents have already began relocating from the old village to the temporary site ahead of time.

Mr. Allen indicated that the company expects that everyone will move in into the temporary site by the end of February. He added that the company will pay for tree crops and other plants as required by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Standard.

According to Allen, the company will begin actual exploitation in March of 2015 by which time the company would have completed the construction of its washing plant and other technical works.

AMC’s assets include the New Liberty gold deposit in Liberia which has an estimated proven and probable reserve of 924,000 ounces of gold grading 3.4 g/t and an estimated measured and indicated mineral resource of 1,143,000 ounces of gold grading 3.63 g/t and an estimated inferred mineral resource of 593,000 ounces of gold grading 3.2 g/t.
The Northern Block of the Bea Mountain mining license also hosts additional gold projects of Ndablama, Gondoja and Weaju, which are the focus of exploration programs during 2013.

Ndablama has an inferred mineral resource of 451,000 ounces of gold grading 2.1 g/t and Weaju has an inferred mineral resource of 178,000 ounces of gold grading 2.1 g/t.

The Archaen Gold exploration license, which covers 89 km², is also a focus of exploration for 2013, with Leopard Rock being the main target. The Yambesei (759 km2), Archaen West (112.6 km2), Mabong (36.6 km2) and Mafa West (15.6 km2) licenses will also be subject to preliminary reconnaissance geological work. Author contact, 231886270297; email: perryroland@rocketmail.com.

 

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