By: Varney Dukuly
MONROVIA: When the 54th Legislature recently returned to the Capitol on the request of President George Weah, there were major issues that were reflected on its agenda.
The agenda items included, among others, the passage of a 25-Year deal for Bea Mountain Corporation in Grand Cape Mount County.
The passage of the Bea Mountain agreement has, however, triggered objection from the people of Grand Cape Mount County, mainly residents of Jikandor.
The aggrieved citizens said they are tired with the company’s alleged callous disregard of the injuries its operation have caused them.
The citizens, among other things, noted that since Environmental Protection Agency (EPA’s) investigation that found higher than permissible level of free cyanides in drinking water sources from the Bea Mountain Corporation Tilling storage facility, contiminating the Mavoe creek, there has been no redress to their concerns.
The spillage cyanides impacted the people of Jikandor, a small village with about 350 residents, located along the Marvoe Creek, within the vicinity of the operational site of Bea Mountain Mining Company in Darblo Clan, Grand Cape Mount County.
The situation, according to EPA’s findings, created dissolved oxygen level while warning residents not to drink anything from the Marvoe creek. EPA, at the same time, called on Bea Mountain to, among other things, relocate the people and provide them water and food.
“The presence of excess cyanide led to the contamination of the water sources and that the situation has severely disrupted and injured the livelihood of the communities that depend on those water resources for their livelihood,” said the EPA in a press statement, then.
Despite the EPA’s findings and investigation, Bea Mountain, according to the citizens, has failed to address the critical recommendations to support the voluntary resettlement of the village of Jekandor despite its proximity to the current Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) and other facets of the company’s operation.
Secondly, Bea Mountain has stopped the supply of water to the people of Jikandor.
So, when the lawmakers voted in favor of the Amended Mineral Development Agreement, giving Bea Mountain additional 25 years of operation in Liberia, the citizens of ‘Jekandor,’ through their legal counsel, cried foul.
“The people of Jikandor are suffering from diverse medical ailments attributable to the cyanide contamination of the Marvoe creek,” said Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, the aggrieved citizens’ lead counsel.
“Let the word go worth that the people of Jikandor are tired with Bea Mountain and the EPA and have now resolved to take recourse to the law as made and provided,” Cllr. Sannoh told a recent news conference in Monrovia.
According to Cllr. Sannoh, who is also former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Liberia, the people of Jekandor in Cape Mount stand ready to seek judicial enforcement of the implementation of the recommendations advanced to the management of EPA.
The recommendations, Cllr. Sannoh said include but not limited to the following: “For EPA to ensure the conduct of a full-scale assessment of the Tailings Storage Facility at Bea Mountain operations and its compliance with its design, environmental management plan and permit; To expedite the relocation of the people of Jikandor, as pollution affected Community; That EPA ensures that Bea Mountain develops a ‘Restoration Plan’ through a third-party EPA-certified consultancy firm and approved by EPA; Ensure the conduct of full-scale assessment to determine the magnitude of the pollution and develop a road map for restoration at the expense of BMMC.”
According to the aggrieved citizens, despite the export of millions of gold minerals from Cape Mount, the government and Bea Mountain say the deal is of great national importance, as it governs the terms and conditions of mineral exploration and exploitation in the country.
Amid the noise surrounding the government’s decision to give Bea Mountain additional 25 years to operate, the people of Weaju in Gola Konneh District feel what they call the company’s ‘epidemic of suffering.’
An investigation conducted by this reporter found what appears to be a snapshot of the suffering that residents said is caused by Bea Mountain underground mining in Weaju, despite their cries for relocation.
“Because of the blasting that the people are doing up the mine, all our houses are cracked. We called on the people to relocate us, but they said underground mining will not affect us,” said Jonathan Momo Domah, secretary of the elder council in Weaju.
“Every day water breaking into the town, the blasting breaking the houses, the breeze bringing whole lot of diseases. Almost every week, we got about three to four bodies lying in this town. Even as I am talking, a body is in this town. Mining has spoiled all our drinking waters. We are dying from sickness caused by these people (Bea Mountain), mining,” he added.
Meanwhile, the media team of Bea Mountain Mining Corporation has promised to officially respond to issues raised by the locals in Grand Cape Mount County by next week.
Amidst the accusations raised by the ordinary citizens against its operation, the company did not reply to inquiries from our reporter for this publication.