Home Economy Bassa Citizens Upset With ‘Cavalla’s Neglects’ …As Social Development Funds Reported Missing

Bassa Citizens Upset With ‘Cavalla’s Neglects’ …As Social Development Funds Reported Missing

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MONROVIA: Liberia is rich in natural resources, including iron ore, diamonds, gold, timber and rubber. But these riches have not translated into the provisioning of quality social services, including adequate healthcare for the vast majority of its citizens.

The country spends only US$6 per person per year on basic services, and its health system is ill equipped to address the wellbeing of its citizens. The presidency of the country is blast at by the day when the livelihood of the citizens is not properly taken care of.

The country’s developmental Agenda is dead when concessionaires’ refuse and can’t pay concession benefits for their various operations and Royalty to counties and communities in which they operate.

Such development seems to be in line with accusations made against Cavalla Resources Limited Mineral Company’s formally authorized by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s erstwhile regime.

Claims abound that the concession was heavily influenced by Clavina Bright Parker, said to be a best friend to Cavalla Resources’ head, Sir Dr. Samuel Esson Jonah.

Samuel Esson Jonah (born 19 November 1949) has been identified as a Ghanaian businessman and the current chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, Republic of Ghana.

He is also said to be the executive chairman of Jonah Capital, an equity fund based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Jonah was previously president of Anglo Gold Ashanti and shared the strategic leadership of the company with its CEO, Bobby Godsell. He is also a board member of the Otumfuo Osei Tutu II Foundation.

According to Grand Bassa District #1 Representative, Hans Barchue, the people of the county are disappointed as it relates to “the absolute neglect of Cavalla’s obligations toward the Goe Fantro Concession” since it took over from BHP Billiton.

“As you are aware, Cavalla is required under Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) and the laws of Liberia to develop and maintain the economic and social liability of the centers of population that have been forwarded and may be the result of operations during the MDA.

Goe Fantro is one of the regions which are directly affected under the operations of the Cavalla, Barhue said in a communication, addressed to the company dated September 21, 2022.

“As a company, you are also required to establish plans and programs for the implementation of the objective,” he added.

According to him, the people of Grand Bassa County, through their Legislative Caucus, have warned that “since Cavalla took over from BHP Billiton, it has failed, refused and neglected to honor any of the obligations under the MDA, thus owing Grand Bassa County, an amount of US$3.2 million, representing both social development and scholarships for the period of 2015-2022.”

The people of Grand Bassa County, through Representative Hans Barchue, stated: “We are notifying that we are convinced that you have no intention of honoring your obligations under the MDA and we will be petitioning the Government of Liberia and all necessary Legislative bodies to review your performance under the MDA and access whether your continuous involvement serves the interest of Liberia. We will also be taking a parliamentary motion to debate this and possibly to pass a vote on your performance and possible termination.”

Moreover, eleven environmental groups, few years ago, blasted ‘Cavalla Resources’ as a Conveyor Plan Linked to what was characterized as Ecologically Unfriendly activities.

A proposal from Cavalla Resources for the construction of a conveyor system over the Marshall Wetlands has been deemed unquestionably unsafe and ecologically unfriendly for the future of the wetland.

The warning comes as eleven environmental groups, including Conservation International Liberia, claim that the company is considering building a conveyor over the Marshall Wetlands to move iron ore from its mines in Grand Bassa County.

“We understand that Cavalla Resources, a company that inherited the Mineral Development Agreement from BHP Billiton in 2016, is considering the possibility of constructing a conveyor belt system across the Marshall Wetlands to transport iron ore from its mines to shore for international markets. In addition, the company plans to stockpile iron ore on 500 acres of land in Bassa Point, within the wetlands,” the group forewarned in a letter to the Minister of Mines and Energy, Gesler E. Murray.

“While we recognize the need to promote economic prosperity from the extractive sector such as mining, all intents and purposes of the conveyor system across the Marshall Wetlands are unquestionably dangerous, environmentally unfriendly, and will have a significant negative impact on this very important wetland,” the citizens asserted.

In Liberia, the wetlands of international significance are Marshall in Margibi County; Mesurado, in Montserrado County; Gbedin, in Nimba County; Lake Piso, in Grand Cape Mount County; and Kpatawee, in Bong County.

Liberia became a party to the Ramsar Convention on November 2, 2003.

As a signatory to the Convention, which is an international treaty for the conservation and use of wetlands, Liberia is under obligation to protect and sustainably manage wetlands, especially those declared as Ramsar Sites of International significance.

These wetlands are protected by Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and use of wetlands, to which Liberia is a party.

The Marshal wetland was designated as a Ramsar Site in August 2006 as part of the government’s plan to protect water resources, avoid biodiversity collapse and improve ecosystem services.

It is Liberia’s second largest wetland, located in Marshall District; Margibi County but now under serious threat from both the Atlantic Ocean and based on its unsustainable use by the local communities.

This decision is of international importance, given that the Marshall Wetlands predominantly contain mangroves with mature trees reaching up to 30 meters.

The Marshall Wetland is also one of the 14 Proposed Protected Areas (PPA) identified by the government in 2008 as part of Liberia’s Protected Areas Network. Marshall Wetland has six islands and three rivers.

As a result, Cavalla Resources’ plan’s alleged consideration of the wetland for a conveyor system would undermine the government’s commitment to the Ramsar Convention, as well as the numerous investments by international partners in protecting and maintaining this biodiversity hotspot, the group said.

It added that previous developers of the areas flagged the Marshall Wetland as a no-go area and considered a long conveyor or dedicated haul road to Buchanan Port as the only viable option.

The group urged the Minister of Mines to reverse any decisions which would see the project going ahead as planned by Cavalla Resources, insisting that said “action endangers the already immensely threatened Marshall Wetlands, its rich biodiversity, and the unique ecosystem services it provides.”

“As conservation organizations in Liberia and strategic partners to the government, we call on your office to rescind all decisions or deny any/all applications to construct the conveyor system in the Marshall wetlands by Cavalla Resources or any other private firm as this action endangers the already immensely threatened Marshall Wetlands, its rich biodiversity, and the unique ecosystem services it provides,” the group informed the Minister.

In the last three decades, more than any other time in Liberia‘s history, poorly regulated human activities have significantly degraded these ecosystems, resulting in an unprecedented loss of biodiversity, and it would be worse if Cavalla Resources is allowed to construct a conveyor belt systems on the wetland.

The move, the group stressed, would greatly endanger the wetland which serves an important habitat for threatened species such as the African dwarf, crocodile, Ridley turtle, leatherback turtle, green turtle, West African slender-snouted crocodile, and migratory birds, among others, the group said.

“Further to its decision in 2006 and recognizing the need to enhance protection of this biodiversity hotspot and to secure the many benefits it provides to local people, the Government of Liberia has commenced activities to formally gazette the Marshall Wetlands Proposed Protected Area as a Protected Area,” the group reminded the Minister of Mines.

“This is also due to the intense and increasing destruction of the mangroves, pollution of the wetland, impact from sand mining and dredging, as well as other human interferences,” he added.

The letter was signed by Conservation International Liberia, Fauna & Flora International Liberia, Libassa Ecolodge, Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection, Liberia National Tourism Association, and Liberian Youth for Climate Action.

Other signatories were Environmental Justice Foundation, Partners in Development, Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia, Sustainable Development Institute, Universal Outreach Foundation, and Wild Chimpanzee Foundation.

In response, the Liberian chapter of Publish What You Pay (PWYP), organized town hall meetings, produced radio programs, orchestrated street theatre events, authored newspaper articles, and put up posters in all public buildings to educate ordinary Liberians about the economic contributions of extractives companies and the missing resource revenues.

By all indications, the National Bureau of Concession, following the adoption in 2005 of the Public Procurement and Concessions Act, has since failed to follow-up on concessionaires that made and signed Mineral Agreements with the government of Liberia and its people. The citizens claimed. The National Bureau of Concessions was established in 2010.

As an Independent legal entity, the National Bureau of Concessions is in charge of monitoring and evaluating compliance with concession agreements in collaboration with concession entities.

The National Bureau of Concessions shall provide to ministries and other agencies or departments of the Government responsible for the granting or administration of concessions, to the extent of available resources, advice, technical assistance, and training in concession agreement monitoring and compliance, including assistance in analyzing, and recommending appropriate action based on, reports and other information provided by concession holders.

The National Bureau of Concessions shall call to the attention of the appropriate ministry or other department or agency of the Government material or persistent failures of a concession holder to comply with the terms of its concession agreement or applicable that are identified by the National Bureau of Concessions in its monitoring and review of concessions, including recommendations of enforcement action when the National Bureau of Concessions determines such action to be appropriate.

The Cavalla Resources Limited operations are carried out in three Counties in Liberia, namely: Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba.

In their concession agreement, signed with the government of Liberia, the company had a Social Corporate Responsibility for affected Counties by their operations which are yet to live up to proven documents in our hands.

Grand Bassa County was receiving US$200,000 in cash as social development funds and scholarship for students attending secondary high schools, colleges, universities during the operation of BHP Billiton in the county for its mining operations.
This happened from 2010 – 2011 fiscal periods to 2014 – 2015.

However, according to the citizens, since the Cavalla Resources Limited took over from BHP Billiton in November 2015, under the direct supervision of the company’s CEO Dr. Sir Samuel Esson Jonah, the company has since refused to live up to its Mineral Concession Agreement signed with the Government of Liberia.

The four exploration areas they took over as Jonah Capital’s exclusive iron ore holding areas are: Goe Fantra, Kitoma, St. John River South and Toto under the Leadership of CEO Saba Jomah.

Counties affected by the transfer Concession are: Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba Counties.

Liabilities associated with BHP Billiton per year as per the concession agreement are: scholarship, Social Development Funds (US$200,000 per annual)

Cavalla Resources Limited sold stock to BCM Limited from 2017 to 2018. The transfer liabilities started from 2015 to 2022, without benefits for the people of Grand Bassa.

Reports say BCM has been unwilling to allow new company to take charge of the Concession area following BCM’s financial insolvency since 2021.

Meanwhile, an official of Cavalla Resources Limited when contacted said he is not permitted to speak to the media about the Company’s Concession. But hinted that the Company has already replied the citizens of Grand Bassa County through their lawmakers, and it is willing to dialogue with the citizens.

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