Kinjor Residents Remain Disheartened with BMMC Operation | Mount Pressure For Execution of Company’s CSR Obligations

Above: A window of one of the “European Standard” residences built for Kinjor locals
Kinjor Residents Remain Disheartened with BMMC Operation
Below: A bathroom inside one of the units.

Above: An aerial view of the BMMC’s facility.

Several citizens and residents of Kinjor Town in Darblo Clan, Gola Konneh District in Grand Cape Mount County are seriously disheartened over the operations of the Bea Mountain Mining Company (BMMC), a Turkish gold-mining firm, relating to the company’s slow pace in the implementation of its corporate social responsibilities contained in the Restated and Amended Mineral Development (MDA) Agreement the BMMC inked with the Government of Liberia (GOL).

The citizens, speaking recently to THE IMAGES magazine in an exclusive interview in Kinjor Town, highlighted the continuous delay by BMMC to train and appoint qualified Liberian professionals and others with technical expertise, particularly people who hail from Darblo Clan, to its senior management portfolios as enshrined in the MDA. They accused the Turkish gold-mining company of giving jobs such as the operation of tractors, repair of vehicle tires, among many other jobs that Liberians can do to Turkish nationals and other expatriates contrary to the Mineral Development Agreement.

They indicated that for over eight years, BMMC has been involved with gold-mining activities in Grand Cape Mount County in the Western Region of Liberia but did little or nothing in meeting its corporate social responsibility (CSR) obligations to the communities in its areas of operations.

“The corporate social responsibilities of the BMMC, per the MDA focus on health and sanitation, clean and safe drinking water, education and training of Liberians, especially those Liberians residing in and around areas where the BMMC operates its gold mining business,” said the aggrieved citizens including chiefs, elders, youth, and other local leaders.

The agreement further indicated that BBMC would provide curative and preventive medical/ health services and provide drugs to the Darblo Clan People, Cape Mountanians, and other Liberians. In addition, the health center should have an up-to-the-minute pharmacy.

Representatives of the Kinjor locals

According to the aggrieved Darblo Clan people, Avesero Resources, the parent of BMMC, for and on behalf of itself and the BMMC, in compliance with its social responsibilities and obligations, had Sazani Consulting Limited of the United Kingdom develop a Community Visioning, Governance Framework and Livelihood Development Plan for their benefit, something which the citizens alleged, has not been done since the signing of MDA. The inhabitants disclosed that it was based on BMMC’s miserable failure for nearly a decade to fulfill its part of the MDA with the Government of Liberia that prompted their recent peaceful protest against the Turkish company in Kinjor.

They further told THE IMAGES that BMMC had previously acknowledged that it failed to comply with all of its responsibilities and obligations under the MDA, the RAP, and the Avesero Development Plan and that it was such miserable failure on the part of the company which also caused them (Darblo Clan People), to publicly protest.

According to the MDA, for the purpose of linkage of the communities of Darblo Clan, and to facilitate the movement of inhabitants of Darblo Clan as well as the transportation of their livelihood (agricultural products) from their farms to other parts of Grand Cape Mount County, BMMC accepted to construct and maintain a high grade, compacted laterite roads within Gola Konneh District and connecting Gola Konneh District with Garwula District in Grand Cape Mount County.

They explained that the mining company, per the agreement, also promised to construct the road which connects Blain Town, Deayellee Town, and Jawajei Marvoh Town within Gola Konneh District and the road which connects Ndabalama Town in Gola Konneh District to Sinje Town in Garwula District, Mbaloma Town in Gola Konneh District to Gbah Town in Garwula District.

In addition to each road being high grade, compacted laterite, all bridges on these roads should be constructed by use of concrete cement, crushed rocks, and steel rods or coverts, and that each of the roads should have appropriate drainages to minimize erosions due to heavy rainfall, especially during the rainy season.

However, the aggrieved citizens disclosed to THE IMAGES that such vital provisions, as enshrined in the company’s corporate social responsibilities, are yet to be fully implemented.

Approximately 10,000 people live in Kinjor Town, but the residents told THE IMAGES that the vast population lacks essential social services and other amenities such as safe and pure drinking water, “I can tell you that for the past eight years, the company has not been doing well. Recently, we had a peaceful protest, and after three months, we are just beginning to see some signs of development. However, I can now say the company is 15 percent doing well. Right now, we see streetlights,” said Francis M. Bailey, an elder of Kinjor.

Elder Bailey, however, said there are other key projects the company is obligated to implement per the MDA it signed with the Liberian government, including agriculture.

Although elder Bailey did not elaborate on completed and subsequently approved by the people of Darblo Clan.

A Turkish national operating machinery that local Liberians should have been hired to use.

For the education and training of the people of Darblo Clan, and all people of Cape Mount, BMMC, according to said MDA, had agreed to undertake the construction of a non-residential school complex for students commencing from Grade 7 through Grade 12, with the understanding that for the last three years (Grades 10 and 12), a student may have the option of vocational training, instead of academic education.

They further quoted the MDA as indicating that the academic education through Grade 12 shall have a curriculum to prepare students for the West African Examination Council’s annual exams while the vocational training shall train students in the fields of agriculture, animal husbandry, electricity, agriculture, the MDA that both the GOL and BMMC signed recognizes that the Darblo Clan People usually engage in small-scale farming and small-scale animal husbandry, which enterprises have been disrupted by BMMC’s operations, works, and activities.

To reinstate the Darblo Clan People’s enterprises, BMMC promised to set aside and spend the amount of US$1,900,000.00 (United States Dollars One Million Nine Hundred Thousand) on agricultural and animal husbandry enterprises for the Darblo Clan People.

“Within thirty (30) days as of the execution of this BMMC/Darblo Clan People Agreement, BMMC promised to use not more than US$38,000.00 (United States Dollars Thousand Dollars), which is 2% (two percent) of the US$1,900,000.00 (United States Dollars One Million Nine Hundred Thousand) to engage a Liberian agriculturist, with a background in animal husbandry, to conduct a study and develop an agricultural and animal husbandry project proposal for the utilization of US$1,862,000.00 (United States Dollars One Million Eight Hundred Sixty-Two Thousand) for the benefit of the Darblo Clan People.

When completed, the project proposal shall be presented to BMMC and the Darblo Clan People for their respective approval, which approval shall be granted or denied not later than thirty (30) days after submission of the project proposal. Nevertheless, this magazine could not confirm, up to press time, whether such a proposal has been plumbing, carpentry, masonry, mechanics (heavy duty and light duty equipment and machines), driving (heavy-duty and light-duty vehicles and earth-moving equipment), and tailoring.

The two parties to the MDA acknowledged that as a matter of law and in keeping with provisions of the MDA, Liberians should be given first preference as to employment.

“Specifically, as to the relevant clauses of the MDA regarding employment of Liberians, it is provided that for the first eight (8) years as of the execution of the MDA seventy (70%) of all skilled and managerial employment may be expatriates and not less than thirty (30%) of all skilled and managerial employment shall be Liberians. The MDA also provides that beginning the ninth (9th) year after the execution of the MDA, not less than seventy (70%) of all skilled and managerial employment shall be Liberians, and thirty (30%) of all qualified and managerial employment may be expatriates.

Above: Samples of gold bars converted from gold dust regularly flown out of Liberia.

To this end, according to the Restated and Amended Mineral Development Agreement, BMMC acknowledged that it has not complied with this requirement of the MDA.

In the said agreement, both the BMMC and GOL also acknowledged that BMMC, as a matter of course, employs non-Liberians to both skilled and unskilled jobs for which Liberians, especially descendants of Darblo Clan precisely and of Cape Mount County, generally are qualified, which is a violation of the Liberianization Policy of the Government of Liberia as provided for in the Decent Work Act.

above: A Turkish national repairing tires, something Liberians should be doing.

Commenting on the issue of pits for disposal of garbage and the closing of those pits when they are filled, the residents alleged that BMMC has not complied with the elementary requirement of establishing dump sites for the communities and getting the garbage from dumpsites or homes within Kinjor Town to be disposed of at the garbage pits.

“And for those garbage pits which have been filled, BMMC has not closed some of them, and BMMC has not dug new pits for disposal of garbage. Consequently, the accumulation of garbage in and around Kinjor Town is becoming dangerous to the health and wellbeing of the Darblo Clan People and other inhabitants of Kinjor Town,” the concerned citizens stressed.

The citizens called for the intervention of the relevant stakeholders, including the Government and local leaders, to address these “anomalies, defaults and violation of law and policy” on employment of Liberians, especially Liberians of Darblo Clan and Cape Mount County descent. According to the aggrieved citizens and residents, the above-mentioned provisions of the MDA haven’t been implemented, and little or nothing is being done for their full implementation anytime soon.

Although he alluded to some signs of development coming to Kinjor three months after the citizens’ peaceful protest, Mr. Sando Lansanah, Town Chief of Kinjor, attributed the situation to the outcome of the recent protest against the BMMC by the aggrieved citizens and residents.

Chief Lasanah further told THE IMAGES that the people of Darblo Clan are still advocating for the necessary increment in the daily wages of the young men and women who are working with BMMC as laborers.

However, the concerned citizens further indicated to THE IMAGES that besides the setting up of the street lights in Kinjor as part of its corporate social responsibilities, the BMMC had provided US$50,000 for an interest-free loan program that villagers will apply for to do business.

Nevertheless, the residents asserted to THE IMAGES that in line with said MDA, and as part of its corporate social responsibilities to communities in which it operates, BMMC agreed to finance a micro-finance scheme for US$150,000.00 (United States Dollars One Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars) to be used to finance microeconomic/ small scale investment projects for individuals and families within Darblo Clan.

The citizens divulged to THE IMAGES that only US$50,000.00 (United States Dollars Fifty Thousand) of this amount has so far been disbursed to the Darblo Clan People and that the remaining amount would be paid at a time which is yet to be specified.

While acknowledging that the BMMC has also built about 160 housing units in Kinjor for residents who were evacuated from the mining spot in line with the MDA, the citizens expressed disdain and contempt that said housing units constructed did not meet the required standards as clearly spelled out in the GOL-BMMC Mineral Development Agreement.

One of the elders of Kinjor

When contacted by THE IMAGES for more than a week regarding the concerned citizens’ claims against the BMMC, Mr. Debar Allen, Country Manager of the Turkish gold-mining company, refused to comment.

When further pressed for the company’s official reaction to the allegations, Mr. Allen harshly retorted that newspaper or magazine has nothing to do with what is unfolding between the BMMC and the people of Darblo Clan in Grand Cape Mount County.

Describing THE IMAGES’s Publisher Mr. Sando Moore, who had approached him on several occasions to get BMMC’s side of the story, as a “foolish man,” Mr. Allen told the Publisher of THE IMAGES that he (Moore) has no right to “police” him about the Darbo Clan and the company. In essence, Allen completely shielded the company’s Turkish management from being asked by THE IMAGES about what the Darbo Clan people have said regarding the MDA. When also contacted for comment on the allegations levied against the company, Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Cllr. H. Varney Gboto Sherman, who is on the negotiating team of the Darblo Clan people and the BMMC, said the team is currently engaged with the company. Sen. Sherman, however, added that he could not further speak on the issue because the team is presently engaged with the company, and there are positive signs in their negotiation.

Above: Liberians and their Turkish counterparts at the mine

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