The Management of the Mining, BHP Billiton says it has no plan to abandon its operations in Liberia, rather, the company intends carrying out its activities in phases, in line with the Mineral Development Agreement reached with government.
The clarification was made was when Internal Affairs Minister, Blamoh Nelson visited the Garmu Community on Sunday, January 27, 2013, to intervene in the standoff between the citizens and staff of the Company.
According to a release from Company, the current phase of the company’s project has to do with the conducting of exploration at designated sites to determine the quantity and quality of iron ore deposits within the mine.
The clarification comes in the wake of media reports that the company is parking up drilling equipment and dwelling units and other effects from the Garmu Exploration site in Panta District, Bong County.
The situation has reportedly caused serious tension between residents of Garmu and the company, because according to the citizens, the Company was relocating without prior notice. The citizens feared that the Company was departing the concession area without fulfillment of benefits to them including Social contributions; construction of feeder roads, health, employment and scholarships amongst others.
The Minister Nelson’s visit was a result of complaint of brewing tension from the citizens through the Bong local Administration.
The company had also complained of threats by the citizens, who they say, used traditional measures to hold them hostage, by blocking the access roads.
But, according to the Manager of BHP Billiton Liberia project, Dave McCraken, the company is exploring four sites in three counties, including Bong, after which determinations on prospects are released to government periodically.
At a well-attended meeting held in Garmu on recently, Mr. McCraken disclosed that exploration at Garmu Mines has been concluded; waiting results from the analysis, which will be presented to government in mid-February this year.
Mr. McCraken however assured the citizens that while his company awaits the analysis report, it remains committed to the Mineral Development Agreement.
Meanwhile, Internal Affairs Minister Blamoh Nelson as described the situation as a misunderstanding, caused by lack of proper communication from the company on the stages of its operations
“From investigation conducted, there were no threats on lives and properties as reported in the media and some quarters from the public,” Min. Nelson noted.
At the same time, Minister Nelson has called on the citizens of Gbamu District to remain calm as government was working in their interest, urging them to avoid violence in any form to solve problems, rather channel their problems with concessions companies through the government.
Minister Nelson’s intervention has restored calm and increased the level of understanding of the Company’s operations as well as the role of the citizens of Garmu in Bong County.
The citizens of Garmu have applauded Minister Nelson for the timely intervention in the situation, promising to work with the company.