The Government of Liberia (GoL) has ordered the return of normal operations of the Bea Mountain Mining Company in Grand Cape County to allow its mediation team to take the necessary steps to amicably resolve the situation.
The government’s call follows two days of dialogue among citizens of the community, workers union and the management of Bea Mountain as well as lawmakers of the county held at the Ministry of Labor in Monrovia.
Government negotiating team headed by the Labor Minister, Cllr. Charles H. Gibson and Co-Chairman Justice Minister, Cllr. Musa Dean. Other members are the Mines & Energy Minister, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Executive Director, Prof. Wilson Tarpeh, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Bureau of Concession. Also at the discussion were the Senate Committee Chairman on Labor, Committee Chair on Concession and the Committee Chair on Lands and Mines, amongst others.
During the discussion, the citizens and workers presented a 14-count petition to the government for consideration by the Bea Mountain management.
In a statement on behalf of the government mediation team, Labor Minister Gibson said whatever agreement reached at the end of the intervention will be guided by a compliance mechanism, which will include penalties for breach as well as commissioning monitoring committee.
He said a committee will be set up with management and community representations, under the supervision of the National Bureau of Concession to work with the Ministry of Mines & Energy and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) to access the records of the company from 2009 to current, to establish what constitutes the 2% that should have been paid to the community as exploration benefit.
He noted that a technical committee will also be set up, comprising the EPA, MOL, Bureau of Concession, the citizens and workers union to move in and verify the impact of the mining activities on the citizens and resident homes and other infrastructures.
The Labor Minister said the committee will be required to take pictures, conduct interviews with citizens and catalogue all of the impact and effects on the community. They will also go to the underground mining site to establish whether there is sufficient safety mechanism in place and safety gears for the workers.
They intend to look at the laboratory to see whether workers there are not being exposed to harmful chemicals.
He assured the citizens and workers that the Ministry of Labor is determined to ensure that no casual workers will go underground. He said effective immediately, all casual workers are now considered contractors at the company.
The government’s mediation team requested the management of Bea Mountain to show from now to Friday, December 21, 2022, an Insurance Company that they have identified to provide injury and death insurance coverage for all those who go underground both Liberians and non-Liberians.
Speaking further, Minister Gibson vowed to ensure that those going underground are well paid and promised that Labor Inspectors will be sent to the company to investigate all labor related issues outlined in the petition from citizens and workers.
Minister Gibson added that he will work to ensure that a labor inspectorate is posted at the company permanently to monitor the full implementation of the labor law.
In closing, Minister Gibson told the citizens of Grand Cape Mount County and the workers of Bea Mountain that President Weah is in full support to ensure workers’ rights are respected and protected by investors operating in Liberia.
Earlier, Justice Minister Dean said it is the obligation of all parties to ensure that the company operations are peaceful, noting that it is a win win situation and as such, the use of country devil must be the last option.
He noted that the problem of local community versus investors is global issue and called on the citizens and workers to look up to the government for the peaceful and amicable settlement of the situation.
In remarks, the management of Bea Mountain thanked the Government of Liberia for the timely intervention in ensuring that the workers return to work.
They promised to remain committed to all agreements and to cooperate with the government to remedy the situation.
For their part, the community through their leaders also commended the government for the role played in bringing them and Bea Mountain management together to discuss situations affecting the relationship between the two.