LIBERIA: WASH Media visits Cape Mount County

… Accesses Impact on Mining Activities on the Environment By: WASH R&E “Media” Network – As a follow-up to a report released by the British Charity, WaterAid on the Environmental, Social and Health Impact on communities due to activities of mining companies in Cape Mount County, the WASH Media Network visited communities that are mentioned in the report.

Bangorma Town where KBL is operating

Bangorma Town where KBL is operating

The visit on the part of the WASH Media was also aimed at verifying the report released by the British charity on the situation faced by the locals due to the mining activities in their respective communities.

The fact-finding mission by WASH Reporters to the following communities and towns including, Bangorma, Ducol Banbomah, Fahn –Jah, Korma –Sawkpojah, and Korma Waiyah Jah.

Other areas visited by WASH R&E are Kobilia, Wangerkor, Geekador, Ngo-Sah, Nagbena, Kinjor and Madina, all in Grand Cape Mount County.

Environmental threat KBL piling up dirt from mining activities with town beneath the dirt pile

Environmental threat KBL piling up dirt from mining activities with town beneath the dirt pile

From a WASH Media investigation, there are three mining companies operating in the county within two Districts.

KBL and MBK are operating in Bangorma and Deicol Bambama in Tewor District in the county, while Liberty Gold Mine is operating in Kinjor in Gola Konneh District.

From the activities of these companies, river sources of these communities and their environment have been threatened by the mining operations of these companies.

WASH Reporters during the investigation also carried out exclusive interviews with residents, local authorities, mining companies involved and government authority.

The Youth Leader of Bangorma, Varney Kemokai told WASH Reporters the villagers have complained on several occasions to the local authority concerning their plight, but there is no sign of attention or assistance from their leaders.

Youth Leader Kemokai indicated that the villagers also engaged the management of KBL on the matter, but it appears that the management is not interested in providing a way out to the problem facing residents of Bangorma.

Kinjor Community affected by relocation due to mining activities

Kinjor Community affected by relocation due to mining activities

Mr. Kemokai said due to the chemical used by the company, there rivers, streams and creeks have been polluted.

He said women before the operation of the company, used to carry on fishing activities in the creeks and rivers, but now fishes in these creeks and rivers can no longer be seen due to chemical.

He noted that women in the communities once used these rivers to fish as a means of providing income for their families.

According to him, there is no sign of marine species in the river due to the chemical used by these companies in the county.

He informed WASH Media that the KBL company has not provided them with safe drinking water, adding the only pump that is being used is one provided by an NGO.

In a related development, the Town Chief of the area, Boakai Kemokai said, as a town chief he is weary about the situation.

Town Chief Kemokai said, on several occasions they have complained the company to the authority, but all their complaints have not yielded any fruitful result.

He said, currently there is fear amongst the residents that very soon there will be no safe drinking water because the only hand pump in the community is now threatened by the contamination of the rivers.

Town Chief Kemokai is meanwhile appealing to the government to ensure that their plights are addressed by KBL operating in their community.

Meanwhile, over thirteen thousand residents of Kinjor, another gold mining town in Grand Cape Mount County are experiencing similar problem.

Kinjor Town Chief, Lassana Sambola informed WASH Reporters that due to the chemical used, some residents of the area are now purchasing sachet water (locally produced mineral water) from Monrovia for drinking.

Town Chief Sambola said residents who are unable to purchase mineral water, are compelled to drink from surrounding creeks which are polluted in the area with chemical, thereby always resulting to running stomach and other water related diseases.

He said, they have approached authority of the Liberty Gold Mining Company about their plight, but still cannot get favorable results.

Chief Sambola also revealed that most of their houses are cracking due to the explosives used by the company.

He said, residents have appealed to the companies over the years to provide safe drinking water and toilets, but their requests have yet to be addressed.

For her part, the chairlady of Kinjor, Jenneh Tarplah said, as women in the community, they have tried their outmost best in engaging the management on the matter of safe drinking water and the pollution that is taking place surrounding the creeks in the community.

Madam Tarplah said due to the lack of toilets and bath rooms in the community open defecation is on the increase.

She disclosed that their dignity as women is undermined because they usually take their bath outside.

The condition and story is the same in all of the communities visited by WASH R&E in the county.

It was also discovered by WASH Media, that these mining companies are carrying on artisanal and mechanized mining activities in areas visited.

The large quantity of water needed by these companies poses potential threats to underground water sources of these communities mentioned.

Town Chief Lassanna Sambola of Kinjor

Town Chief Lassanna Sambola of Kinjor

The intrusive ground disturbance works associated with these mining operations potentially impact water resources in communities across the study areas, limiting the availability and possibly quality of the ground water.

Both artisanal and mechanized operations require significant amounts of water for washing and processing gravel, often with the use of chemicals such as mercury and cyanide.

When contacted, most of the companies referred the Media to government, as they were reportedly operating according to Agreements, but refused to show copies of said Agreements to the Media.

The companies however said they were concerned about complaints by residents of mining communities, and promised to begin holding meetings to address their complaints.

Also, when contacted, government through the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy said this was the first official complaint from effected residents through the Media and assured that all will be done to address the situation.

The Ministry has meanwhile said it has concluded an internal meeting to dispatch a delegation to the affected communities for immediate actions.