Gbarpolu Sup’t Shuts Down Chinese Mining Company Over Alleged Illegal Mining in Community Forest

By Henry B. Gboluma, Jr. |

BOPOLU CITY, Gbarpolu County – Gbarpolu County Superintendent, Sam K. Zinnah has shut down the Leadbond Mining Company, a Chinese mining entity operating in Bopolu District over allegations of mining in the community forest and failure to present their mining documents. Superintendent Zinnah took the bold and decisive action against the Chinese’s Company during a town hall meeting held on May 15, 2024 in Gbeleta Town, Bopolu District.

The decision to shut down the company came after the leadership of the Korninga ‘B’ Community Forest Body raised suspicion about the activities of the mining company. The Community Forest Body alleged that the company had violated the 2009 community rights laws and has been operating without the necessary authorization.

Authorized Community Forest is an area owned, managed, and controlled by a community or group of communities under the Community Rights Law of 2009. The overall goal for establishing community forests in Liberia is to promote sustainable forest management, empower local communities, and enhance livelihoods through responsible utilization of forest resources.

The Chief Officer of the Korninga B Community forest in Korninga chiefdom in Bopolu District, Aaron Mulbah told the Liberia Forest Media Watch that community is planning to take legal action against the company for encroaching on their authorized community forest, adding, “the company’s action was a blatant disregard to community rights and well-being”.

Youth leader, Daniel Flomo recounted at the meeting that community members have constantly voiced out their grievances over the lack of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with community members and the absence of documents authorizing the mining operations in their community.

Couple of citizens also expressed frustration about the company’s disregard for proper procedures and failure to engage with the community members in a transparent and accountable manner.

The situation took an alarming turn when it was revealed to the County’s Labor Commissioner, Jusu Sumo that Leabond Mining Company had employed 10 Chinese nationals without work and resident permits since April this year. Community members further noted that the blatant disregard for legal requirements by the company does not only raise concerns about potential exploitation of the local resources, but also poses questions about the company’s intentions and practices in the county.

The company, which claims it holds a class B license for mining operations, was unable to provide any legitimate documentation authorizing its activities in the area, particularly their entrance into the community’s forest for gold mining.

As suspicions grew regarding the legitimacy of Leabond Mining Company’s operations in the Henry Town Mining Area, the assigned Agent of the Energy and Mines Ministry, Samuel Fahn disclosed to LFMW in a telephone interview that the company acquired a class B Mining document early 2024.

During a joint tour of the newly established gold mining camp, it was observed that since the company’s entry into the forest in April 2024, it has transported containers designed for lodging in their camp. The company was also seen building gold mining plants, and clearing the mining site for operations.

In response to these allegations, both the black and Chinese Managers of the company, Timothy Suah and Sam Chwok, defended their company’s actions in the presence of the County Superintendent by claiming that their documents were in process and were working towards obtaining the necessary approvals.

The explanation by the company failed to appease the community members and local authorities, who view the company’s actions as a clear violation of their rights and a threat to their livelihoods.

Hence, Superintendent Sam Zinnah who has vowed to fight illicit mining and logging in his county wasted no time in taking action against the unauthorized mining operation following the company’s failure to prove its legitimacy.

“Alarming news of illicit, illegal and inappropriate mining in Gbarpolu County. This is unacceptable! It should not; it must not and will not be acceptable in our county. Exploitation of the resources intended to benefit our people will not be watched without actions. We have so many natural resources that should be used to improve the living conditions of our people and country. The ongoing exploitation is depriving the Government of Liberia needed taxes. I also want to take this time to urge the Legislative Caucus of Gbarpolu County to launch a full scale investigation into the 53 carat diamond that was taken from Gbarpolu without benefits to the affected community. We deserve better. Superintendent Zinnah is quoted as posting on his Facebook page on April 26, 2024.

One month later, Superintendent Sam K. Zinnah has shut down one mining company with the support of the local authorities and community leaders over allegations of illegal mining and encroachment on an Authorized Community Forest. He ordered an immediate investigation into the allegations, highlighting the importance of transparency, accountability, and respect for the rule of law of the land in all business activities, especially in sensitive sectors like mining.

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