“The company is operating illegally in the Chiefdom” District Council.
By Richmond B Tholley
Gold Generous Industrial Mining Company, is accused of mining illegally in sambaia Bendugu Chiefdom, Tonkolili District. Land owners and chiefs said the Chinese owned company is operating with unclear terms in the chiefdom.
Residents and land owners said the company is engaged in illegal and reckless gold mining with impunity in their chiefdom daily. Dattay Kargbo a Tribal Authority in Heremakono village said they were not consulted in arrangements leading to the arrival of the company. “Chinese miners have been here for the last two years without consulting us. We were told that the ruling party MP negotiated with them and we were not involved”, he said. As a result, he added, the Chinese company only consider the MP and Regent Chief in discussing their mining plans and kept us in the dark.
“The plots of land we’re cultivating food to feed our families and send our children to school have been taken away by the Chinese company to mine gold. Those deals only benefit them and their friends in governance. Most of our plantations have been destroyed by the company. But we will resist this soon”,Kargbo said.
Musa Koroma a chief in Heremakono said the MP and the councilor told them the company came to the chiefdom to help them. “They promised good roads, hospitals, and schools. But for the past two years they said they have been prospecting to know the type of mines that are on the ground”, he said.
Abu Bakar Marrah, Manager of the company said, they have completed all the procedures with the government before they entered the Chiefdom. “The MP, Councilor and Regent Chief are all aware of the company’s presence in the Chiefdom after we registered with the National Minerals Authority (NMA)” he said. The area councilor Manso Balla Kargbo refused to comment on the issue adding he will respond only after consulting with the MP. The regent chief also refused to comment but instead asked our reporter to speak to the MP Musa Baimba Foray Jalloh.
Meanwhile, the Tonkolili District Council, has denied having knowledge of the existence of the company and its mining activities in the district. Deputy Chairperson, Alimamy Samuel Kamara said, the company’s name isn’t in any of their records. “The company is operating illegally in the Chiefdom because our council isn’t aware. We will take action when the Chairperson returns from another official assignment”, Kamara said.
The district office of the National Minerals Agency in Tonkolili said they will not comment on the legality of the company after speaking with their regional office in Makeni. Sambaia Bendugu Chiefdom in Tonkolili District, though endowed with minerals, is among the poorest chiefdoms in the country, lacking several basic social amenities. The residents think the Chinese mining company is extracting their minerals illegally and their local leaders are in support of this for their personal benefits. They threatened to act soon if this is not investigated. In the past disagreements between land owners and mining companies have led to major confrontations and even death in some areas.
The chiefdom MP, Hon. Musa Baimba Foray Jalloh of the ruling SLPP, is yet to respond on this issue which is becoming a potential source of conflict in his deprived constituency.