Gov’t Reacts to Increase in Illicit Mining
-As Mines Ministry Institutes Robust Intervention
The Minister of Mines and Energy, Hon. Gesler E. Murray has expressed concern over the increase in illicit gold and diamond mining activities taking place in the country over the years, noting that as part of efforts to revive the mining sector under government’s pro-poor agenda for prosperity and development policy, his Ministry has begun taking robust measures against illicit mining in Liberia.The Mines and Minerals Minister made the observation on Thursday last week during the regular Thursday Ministry of Information press briefing at the Ministry of Information, Cultural affairs and Tourism (MICAT) conference Hall.
According to the Mines, Mineral and Energy Minister his ministry is working on plans to change the name of the ministry from the ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (LME) to the Ministry of Mines, Minerals and Energy (MME) in view of the significance government attaches to reviving the mining sector.
Minister Murray said that the mining sector is an important engine of economic growth and development as well as for revenue generation in Liberia, adding that the mining sector contributed about 65% to the country’s National budget over the years.
Minister Murray however lamented over several challenges that his ministry is facing, including lack of proper zoning system, illicit mining and the increase of poverty among some miners which is why his ministry has put in place certain measures to discourage the situation.
“The country has been divided into mining regions, zones and districts,” he said.
He said among the measures put in place by his ministry and other stakeholders such as the National Investment Commission and the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (LEITI) include reviewing the mining Act of Liberia and other relevant regulations so that they conform to present day realities in the country under the pro-poor agenda, as the 2003 laws are now obsolete.
The Minister recounted that arrests have been made in many instances and violators of the law have been handed over to the Police for prosecution, while mines inspectors are been trained to beef up security in mining areas.
He noted that there are two main categories of mining licenses including the B and C license for alluvial and small scale miners and the A license for the industrial miners, mostly companies such as the Arcelor Mittal.
The Minister also observed that over the years some illicit min ers have also been using heavy machines and to address the povery issue they are organizing miners in to cooperative societies to help cater to their welfare especially to help them recover losses from risks withoutprofits, adding that this will also facilitate the payment of taxes to government.
Among key achievements announcement by Minister Murray in his power-point presentation at the mines and energy Ministry of Information press briefing, are: the erection of a coastal defense wall to protect the New Kru own community and the D. Twe High School from sea erosion.
Minister Murray also disclosed to the public what many Liberians thought would be impossible to do some years ago, that is the erection of a coastal defense wall by his ministry with the support of donor partners to protect the Hotel Africa, OAU villas and the Unity Conference center from sea erosion.
In the area of electricity, the minister said presently 38,000 connections to electricity have been achieved especially in the South Eastern part of the country, adding that Nimba and Bong couties have benefitted the most from the West African Power Pool Project (WAPP).
“There is also the Kakata and thee Bomi corridors as well as the Roberts International Airport (RIA) corridor sponsored by the African development bank with a 14,000 low connections but expected to be raised to 40,000. There is also the CLSG an ancillary of the WAPP imported electricity from the Ivory coast project which when completed will give us 200 megawatts; and which in addition to the bushrod power plant will make Liberia ahead of Sierra leone in electricity delivery,” the minister said.
He said the CLSG will run into the Monrovia powder supply line, which currently only Nimba is benefitting from the cross-border electricitysupply from the Ivory Coast, as he expressed disgust over the high rate of powder theft that is posing a setback to the operations of the Liberia Electricity Corporation(LEC).
“50% of electricity from mount coffee is being diverted to illegal connection despite the risks involved, there is a,so the issue of faulty meters and the incorrect billing procedures, as well as many people who are not able to afford paying for electricity resorting to the use of charcoal,” he said.
The minister used the occasion to announce the construction of the TIPOTO hydro power dam with funding from the world Bank and expressed profound gratitude to all friendly government who robustly made donors and loans towards the construction of the Mount coffee hydro power plant especially Norway, Germany, the World bank among others.. (By John L. Momoh)