By Morrison O.G Sayon from Grand Bassa
Reports emanating from the newly discovered mining site in Grand Bassa County say over 30 persons including a pregnant woman and child have died on the sites.
According to miners and marketers who spoke to our reporter who has just returned from the site said that illicit mining activities are seriously ongoing in N0.2, Grand Bassa County. Most of those spoken to disclosed that the deaths occurred around last month prior to the deployment of state security on the mining site.
A huge gold deposit was recently discovered by a resident of a little known village called ‘No Way InsideDistrict N02’. The discovery has led to serious illicit mining something that has attracted huge crowd from Montserrado, Margibi, Bong, Rivercess and other surrounding counties who are pouring into the village daily.
As a result of the illicit mining activities in No Way, 2, the village has become a market ground with marketers from mainly Buchanan, Monrovia, Kakata and other areas carrying on serious business activities as the prices of basic commodities are sky-rocketing. The death of the over 30 persons at the mining site according to Miner Jerry Roberts, is a result of the level of undermining of pits being dug by the miners themselves. Roberts said usually 14ft which is referred to as 14 shovels are dug in the mountain and that the miners also do what he referred to as undercut sometimes resulting to landslide.
Roberts said most of the deaths occurred because of landslide though he did not state whether the pregnant woman and child died from the same landslide. Other information revealed that following the opening of the site, serious confusion broke out between miners and narrated that other miners trespassed on the site referred to as lines of others thus resulting serious commotion.
Residents and some miners narrated that due to the mounting tension over ownerships of mining sites amongst miners, government decided to intervene by deploying officers of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberia National Police to put the situation under control.
The police and other state security are presently deployed at the mining site to thwart any eventuality in the area because the ERU officers deployed at the site have been accused of involving in illicit mining, harassment, intimidation and sporadic shooting at night.
Some of the miners disclosed that though the Government of Liberia through the Liberia National Police has since closed the mining site for two weeks, police officers mostly ERU deployed there are hiring them to mine the gold for them (police).
“They stopped us from going to the mine but are taking some of our friends to carry on the operation from them. Whenever you hear shooting, it means that they (ERU) have discovered huge quantity of gold and do not want anyone to go there,” Roberts said; while Mohammed Barrie another miner said he was among eight other miners who was hired by the ERU to go on the mine but upon their return all the gold was taken from them by the ERU officers and began to shoot in the air.
“Whenever the police see you going in the bush, you will be flogged, your phone and other belongings taken from you,” Barrie continued. The group of young men accused the ERU of continuous harassment, intimidation and random shooting in the area.
However, when contacted to comment on the allegation, the Commander of the ERU at the site who only identified himself as Frank could not confirm or deny the allegation but referred the writer of this story to the Deputy Police Director for Operation Abraham Kromah who he said deployed him and his men in the bush to control the area.
Frank said he received strict orders from Kroman not to allow anyone including journalists on the mining site and therefore, could not allow a journalist from The INQUIRER to see what is obtaining on the ground.
Government officials including the Superintendent of Grand Bassa County, Etfreda Cooper, Chief Zanzan Korwor and other county officials are moving into the area daily apparently to acquaint themselves with the ongoing illicit mining activities in District N0 2.
At the same time serious business activities are ongoing at the mining site with business people increasing their prices. A bag of hot mineral water is being sold for L$20; bowl of rice L$250-L$300, a pair of Sneakers L$3,000-L$4,000, among others.
But hundreds of people are moving into the village in huge numbers daily to be part of the gold-getting prey in Grand Bassa County. Observers are wondering as to what the Liberian Government will do to stop the illicit mining in the area as those deployed there to stop the act are now being accused of beign involved in illicit mining.
Almost all of the bike riders in Buchanan City have moved to Waka Town Junction to transport those who want to go to the mining site. Transportation fares have astronomically increased with bike riders charging L$1,000 from the junction to a nearby town which is the stopping point before walking for about three hours to the main mining site.