Illegal Minining Sparks Controversy In Gbarpolu By: Julius Konton

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The natural resources of Liberia,  which should be a blessing for the people, continue to be a curse at the detriment of the suffering masses. In Western Liberia , Gbarpolu County, one of the poorest counties in Liberia, under-populated,  under- developed but  rich in Natural resources,  yet the people are living in abject poverty as hardship, lack of network, poor health and educational facilities and bad roads, including other basic services are old- aged  problems the suffering masses continue to battle over the period and up to present. On Sunday, serious controversy sparked when the Acting Deputy Labor Minister for Planning and Manpower Development, Emmanuel Barnes, received an intel that some Chinese are being allegedly  protected by local authorities within the county. The Intel further informed the Acting Deputy Minister then, Emmanuel Barnes, that rumors also have it that an Assistant Labor Minister, name withheld, was also allegedly protecting the Chinese from duly carryout their proper registration process. Very robust and proactive, Minister Barnes told our reporter that he approved a letter, signed by the inspector general of Labor, and set up a special operation team to move on the mining site.  The three inspectors headed by Charles Browne, their boss, arrived at the illegal mining site to discover eleven Chinese, undocumented, two with residence permits, eight with entry visas and one without a passport but are all carrying out illegal mining operations within the area. He wondered how did the Chinese arrive at such area without a work  permit, no residence permit including entry visa but are working .According to Minister Barnes,  the eleven Chinese are in clear violation of the Labor laws and are to pay 3,000USD each while 1,000USD each will also go towards their  registration fees. He put the sum total of their fines at 45,000USD for violation.  He, at the same time stated that these same Chinese were fine by the Ministry of Mines and Energy 25,000usd for illegally operating in the county and are to pay such fine before operations can resume. However, these Chinese Mr. Barnes described as inherent violators normally go to the mining site to mine in the absence of mining inspectors.  The mining  site situated behind Henry’s Town is approximately six to seven hours away from Bopolu City, as bad roads and the lack of network are the order of the day. At the same time,  the Superintendent of  Gbarpolu County , Sam Zinnah disclosed that the eleven Chinese are allegedly been provided police protection within the area, something he frowned at greatly. He alleged that he wrote the Police Inspector General about the situation,  but there has been slow response. The Gbarpolu County Superintendent claimed  that the police who should be protecting the lives and properties of the people are now providing serious security protection for illegal mining companies and operations within the County. Superintendent Zinnah also alleged that the Labor inspectors went on the scene of the illegal site on Sunday,  harassed and extorted money from the Chinese , a claim Assistant Minister of Labor for planning and manpower development, Emmanuel Barnes termed as untrue.  According to him,   his  inspectors did a professional job as evidence of the police report following the conduct of an investigation. He  denied that his inspectors  harassed the Chinese neither did they take 200USD as claimed by the Gbarpolu Superintendent.  “Imagine, how can people be caught in violation of 45,000USD then an inspector will take a little of 200USD, this does not make any sense,” he refuted the claim.  Narrating further, Minister Barnes pointed out that due to the lack of network in the area , the Chinese were forwarded to  Bopulu City where they were investigated on Monday morning haven arrived late Sunday evening from the site. As a result of the sensitive nature of the matter, he indicated that Nathan Tamba Jallah, County Commander of Gbarpolu for the Liberia Immigration Service and Bicaba Jallah, General Police Commander of Gbarpolu County among others, conducted the investigation.

According to the findings from the investigation by the Law enforcement officers within the County, it was established that there was no prove to claims that the Labor inspectors harassed or took  money from the Chinese as claimed by   Superintendent Sam Zinnah. However, Minister Barnes also claimed that the Superintendent did provide some protection for the illegal Chinese mining operators, an allegation, the Gbarpolu County Superintendent rejected.  In a drive to move further into the matter after an alleged refusal to have the labor inspectors leave the area  on the alleged orders of the Superintendent following, the investigation,  Minister Barnes told our reporter that he placed a call to  Deputy Internal Affairs Minister for Operations, Selena Marpay while trying to intervene into the situation and  was told by the  Superintendent of Gbarpolu County,  Sam Zinnah  that an Assistant Minister of Labor, name withheld  told him that the mining site in question is under his protection or  control area as such, they should not pay  heel to any labor inspector activities order than his instruction. The Assistant Labor Minister stated that he sensed a syndicate into the situation, but he has vindicated himself by sending Labor inspectors on the field to do their job which he added they did evidence of a report on his desk. Even though, Minister Barnes refused to mention the name of his colleague, whom he knows, he was quick to point out that he is doing  a comprehensive report, to be backed by photos and few videos evidences which we have in our posession too in order  to prove his case beyond all reasonable doubts. “If people want to shield things or people, I will not do such, we will go to incident management meeting and I will present my report and we will see what happens next and who is telling the truth “, he noted.

Barnes stressed that as a young man, he has come to public service to do the right thing and to erase the notion that young people can’t make the difference but he is committed to working harder to make the difference. “We have come to power under a premise of accountability and transparency as well as fighting corruption and to rescue the people and we will do everything in the rightful power, manner and form to rescue our people “, he added. Well, With claims and counter claims from the Labor Ministry, Internal Affairs, The Superintendent of Gbarpolu County as well as illegal Chinese mining companies and operators and the police, it remains unclear as to who exactly is telling the truth or who is shielding illegal Chinese miners in the County. However, it is a known fact that there are illegal mining operations on the increase in Gbarpolu County while the people continue to feel the pinch instating of benefiting from their natural resources as duty bearers continue to point accusing fingers as to who exactly is protecting the illegal miners. Meanwhile, it has been established over the period that Poor Governace and Mismanagement of the Country’s natural resources as well as corruption continue to be a huge challenge confronting the growth and development of the Country, as the direct beneficiaries, the people continue to suffer.

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