Illegal Mining Activities by Chinese Nationals Stir Controversy in Maryland County.

By Christian Appleton | GNN Liberia Maryland Correspondent|

Soar Mining Company, owned by several Chinese nationals, is at the center of a controversy over alleged illegal mining activities in Gbaeken Town, District #3, Maryland County. According to local residents, the company is operating without the necessary permits required by the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy.

The presence of Chinese miners, who are reportedly living in makeshift accommodations provided by the company, has sparked concern among residents. They attribute the lack of law enforcement and local authority presence as reasons for their inability to halt these activities. Consequently, locals have resorted to negotiating with the miners to obtain some benefit from their resources.

Residents recount that the Chinese miners have repeatedly apologized for violating community traditions. These apologies have led to social contracts, though formal agreements have yet to be signed. During negotiations, the community demanded 100,000 Liberian Dollars monthly and 2,000 United States Dollars every six months as Service Rental Fees. However, no formal agreement has been reached, leaving the community without legal backing.

“Day and night, new Chinese nationals are coming in and out; we don’t know whether they are coming with papers from the government, but we think our own people are the problem,” an aggrieved Gbaeken citizen lamented.

Chief Johnson Pokolo of Gbaeken confirmed that no legal document has been signed with Soar Mining Company, though the company continues to mine. He explained that the company was initially invited for a subcontract by two local miners. After the contract ended, Soar Mining continued operations without authorization, leading to community action to halt their activities.

“So we halted their operation, and they came to apologize to us, but while apologizing, they asked the town for claims, and we did it with conditions that they should provide other benefits, which they are yet to do. We are worried because our communities are not benefiting from the Chinese,” Chief Pokolo stated.

The chief mentioned that the company had promised to rehabilitate roads, install pumps, build a seven-classroom elementary school, and provide other benefits, none of which have been realized. Frustrated by unfulfilled promises, the town’s youth and women temporarily stopped the mining operations, but a grace period was granted following intervention by Karluway’s concerned youths.

Gabriel S. K. Musu, President of the Karluway Concerned Youth, confirmed that the Ministry of Mines and Energy instructed the shutdown of mining activities until all necessary permits are obtained. He noted that Soar Mining Company notarized a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) without the affected community’s consent, raising questions about the miners’ legal status.

“As far as we are concerned, the Chinese mining operation was shut down on Monday morning when we went to Gbaeken to instruct our people,” Musu said.

In response to these developments, Karluway District #3 Representative  Hon. Austin B. Taylor on May 30, issued a formal communication to SOAR Mining Company, accusing the firm of commencing operations in Gbeaken, District #3, without adhering to the necessary rules and regulations.” The company commenced its activities in our district without consultation with the relevant authorities and local leaders of the town,” the communication stated. Representative Taylor demanded that the company cease all mining activities until proper procedures are follow to prevent potential legal repercussions.

Hon. Taylor emphasized the importance of legal compliance and best practices in mitigating environmental and social impacts of mining activities. “Given the potential environmental and social impact of mining activities, it’s crucial that all companies operating in our region adhere to legal requirements and best practices to mitigate any adverse effects on the local communities and environment,” he noted.

Representative Taylor is calling for the collaborative efforts involving various stake holders, including the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, local youth presidents, Elders, Chiefs, and the Joint Securities, aimed at resolving the controversy surrounding the illegal mining activities in Maryland County. The community remains vigilant in safeguarding their resources, insisting  on accountable and responsible corporate practices amidst the foreign -owned mining operations.

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