Top: Joseph Toe, a Bao Chico worker displays his injured fingers to our reporter. The Daylight /Harry Browne

By Emmanuel Sherman

BARNERSVILLE, Montserrado – Joseph Toe 35, was happy when he started work with Bao Chico in Gbarpolu in February. 

Toe was assigned to an iron ore plant, with his job to prevent unwanted rocks from entering the machine.

But on May 4, barely three months at the Bao Chico Resources Liberia Limited, Toe sustained injuries to two fingers in an accident. He had been lecturing and gesturing to a friend while eating when his left hand slipped into an air compressor machine. The air compressor, an automatic machine used in welding, cut portions of his thumb and his ring finger.

After the accident, Toe was first taken to John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia for two days and later to Emirates Hospital in Bopolu.

Emirates recommended in the presence of county authorities that Toe should continue with full treatment at JFK Hospital due to his condition.  But the Bao Chico management took him to another clinic instead.

Toe insisted that he should be treated at JFK in line with the recommendation and not at another clinic.

A Bao Chico mine in Gbarpolu County. The DayLight/Derick Snyder

‘They dashed me’

Bao Chico refused on the ground they were paying the money, so they would carry him anywhere they felt.

“I said no. They dashed me and went about their business. They did not know how I was eating,” Toe told The DayLight at his temporary home in Barnesville.

Toe then called the police. The police invited Jack Wang, Bao Chico’s site manager, but he refused. So, the police came to the Chinese clinic arrested, handcuffed, placed him on a motorcycle taxi and took him to the police depot in the ELWA community.

However, the case was withdrawn and settled outside of the police, according to Jusu Sumo, the labor commissioner of Gbarpolu County, who presided over Toe’s case. He was recalled after the case as part of a routine reshuffle.

“There is a need for the company to come and settle me to help my family,”  Toe said. “You can look at my fingers, I am traumatized. I am not normal like again like before.”

Toe has received US$3,000 as injury benefit as required under the Decent Work Act, Sumo said, which Toe confirmed.

“As far as we are concerned, the issue with Toe has been settled,” said George Mitchell, a Bao Chico spokesman.

Police officers handcuff Jack Wan and bundle him onto a motorcycle taxi. The DayLight/Harry Browne

This is the third major injury at Bao Chico The DayLight has reported due to the company’s unsafe working environment.  Earlier this year, Augustine David, a driver lost his index finger when a steel rod crushed it. Momo Kamara a machine assistant, lost his left, small finger in a machine accident. 

There have been other injuries and incidents. Anthony Jackson, a welder, was injured on his left foot because he was not wearing proper footgear. Jedrome Baomah got injured after a hot welding particle passed through the hole of the goggles he was hearing and entered his right eye. Harris Kollie, a driller, sustained injuries on his neck and stomach after being beaten by Mr. Wang.

Perhaps, the most infamous victim is Zoe Freeman, a 50-plus woman who fainted during one of Bao Chico’s explosion exercises.

The DayLight investigation found Bao Chico did not draw up its workplace regulations for approval by the Ministry of Mines and Energy as required by law.

There is no record that Bao Chico reported these injuries to the ministry, another violation of the law. The procedures are intended to secure the safety, health and welfare of employees and other persons at work.

“It is shocking to see a multi-million-dollar company for three years without employing a single safety officer who will teach safety rules to workers, said Sampson Lamah, the spokesperson of the affected communities in Gbarpolu County.  Bao Chico only provides a helmet, reflective vest, and light gloves, Lamah said.   There are no safety boots or other gear for mineworkers.

Bao Chico, a Chinese-owned steel company, and the Liberian government signed a 25-year agreement to mine iron ore in 2022. The agreement covers 87.4 kilometers, stretching from Bopulu in Gbarpolu to Suehn Mecca in Bomi.

The United States Embassy provided funding for this story. The DayLight maintained editorial independence over the story’s content.

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