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EPA: Supreme Court Denies Wilson Tarpeh’s Petition

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Police officers at the Supreme Court of Liberia

Top: The Temple of Justice in Monrovia. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By Emmanuel Sherman


Monrovia – The Supreme Court of Liberia has denied Wilson Tarpeh’s claim to a seven-year tenure as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Liberia.

In March, the court issued a writ of prohibition against Dr. Emmanuel Urey Yarkpwolo who was appointed by President Joseph Boakai as Interim Executive Director of the EPA.

Tarpeh, who was appointed in October 2020 as head of the environmental agency by Former President George Weah, argued he was entitled to the tenure.  However, the Supreme Court disagreed over the absence of a policy council, a body that vets and qualifies a tenured head of the EPA.   

“In the absence of the formation of, and a recommendation from, the Policy Council, the appointment of the petitioner by former President Weah was an interim appointment for which tenure is inapplicable,” the high court said in a Wednesday ruling.  

The EPA Act grants the President of Liberia the power to appoint an “interim executive director” in the absence of a Policy Council, which President Boakai recently appointed. The Act provides that the council will then recommend the Executive Director from a list of three individuals.

The court also ruled that Tarpeh was further barred from continuing as head of the EPA because of an Executive Order issued by Former President Weah in November last year.    

“The petitioner served in an interim executive director capacity at the EPA, his removal aligned with Executive Order 123,” the Court said.  

EPA Orders Miners to Pay US$16K Over Illegal Acts

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Top: The headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tubman Boulevard in Sinkor. The DayLight/Mark B. Newa


By James Harding Giahyue


MONROVIA – The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered a mining company to pay a combined US$15,998 for operating without an environmental permit, and a restoration plan for its mines.

Quezp Mining Company ran two mines in Brewerville and Royesville for nearly two years without the permit, the EPA said in a report following a preliminary investigation.  

The investigation followed a DayLight publication, which showed Quezp had no license for a pair of zircon sand mines in the Montserrado communities.

The publication revealed the Brewerville mine had a plant where zircon sand was transported from Royesville with the involvement of residents.

The plant processed the zircon sand—a mineral used in the ceramics industry. Mineworkers placed the sand in 25-kilogram bags and then transported them elsewhere for export.

The company fled from the communities, just days after the publication.

EPA investigators found that Quezp also bought zircon sand from other places, including Banjor, a Montserrado sea erosion hotspot.

“The direct beach sand mining being carried out by the company and community has resulted in serious coastal degradation and sea erosion,” the EPA report found.  “This has impacted many landed properties closest to the mining operation.

Remnants of a Quezp’s illegal mining activities in Brewerville. The DayLight/Charles Gbayor

“The company’s operation has seriously impacted the mangrove forest due to the improper disposal of its mine waste,” it said.  

EPA fined Quezp US$2,999 for mining without an environmental permit. It ordered the company to present a US$12,999 plan to restore the environment where it worked, according to the report.

The report also found that the miners were less than a kilometer from the beach, impacting houses closest to its illegal operations. It said Quezp encouraged residents to engage in sand mining, outlawed since 2012 to curb countrywide coastline loss.

EPA investigators urged the agency to officially inquire about the status of Quezp’s mining licenses. The DayLight found that the company only has two zircon-sand prospecting licenses in Kpayan District, Sinoe County.

The Investigators called for mining and environmental awareness in communities across the country.

Terrence Collins, Quezp’s owner and CEO, did not immediately respond to queries.

EPA Shuts Down Carbon Deal Over DayLight’s Investigation

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The headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia in Sinkor. The DayLight/Mark B. Newa


By Esau J. Farr


MONROVIA – The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has disapproved of carbon credit negotiations between an American-owned company  BlueEarth Capital and rural communities following an investigation by The DayLight that exposed irregularities with the deal.  

“[The EPA] has thus issued an immediate resolute call to all communities involved in discussions with the company (BlueEarth) to cease all engagements without delay or risk drastic actions,” said the agency in a statement over the weekend.

“EPA’s involvement and approval are non-negotiable pre-requisites in carbon credit deals in Liberia,” it added. 

The agency further expressed “profound dismay” over the ongoing illegal carbon negotiations between BlueEarth Capital and residents of Ziadue Clan, River Cess County.

The release came on the back of a DayLight story on  BlueEarth’s proposed MoU with Ziadue to save carbon credits on more than 55,000 hectares of forestland.  

The DayLight reported a number of illegalities associated with the proposed deal.

The investigation showed BlueEarth induced community leaders to consent to the deal by underwriting their transportation and food costs.

It proved that ordinary townspeople and some community leaders were still unaware of the deal despite emerging in March, a violation of locals’ right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).  (FPIC is guaranteed in the Community Rights Law, the Land Rights Act, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)

The deal sought over 55,000 hectares, more than 8,000 hectares of the uncontracted area Ziadue has.

It was illegally intended to last for 25 years, 10 more than the legal duration of a community forest contract, based on the Community Rights Law. 

EPA, one of the agencies responsible for regulating the carbon industry, said it was caught unaware by The DayLight’s investigation.

BlueEarth Capital intended to capture carbon credits in more than 55,000 hectares of forestland in Ziadue Clan, Central River Cess District in River Cess County. The DayLight/Carlucci Cooper

“Their intent is to exploit these forests for carbon harvesting and subsequent trading of carbon credits on the international market,” it said. BlueEarth has also engaged communities in Nimba, Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu.

Ziadue Clan’s land leadership said they would now focus on getting its ancestral land deed, a process it has almost completed.

“We are customary people. What we are running after now is our confirmatory survey to get a deed from the Liberia Land Authority (LLA),” said Emmanuel Roberts, the chairman of the Ziadue’s community land development management committee (CLDMC).

“If we have anything to do with BlueEarth Capital, it will not be hidden from the national government, civil society organizations and our consultant.”

Augustine Jarrett, BlueEarth’s American owner and former presidential adviser, did not answer questions for comments on the matter. However, he defended his institution in a statement on Monday evening.

“We are deeply committed to the principles of transparency, integrity, and community engagement,” Jarrett said.  

EPA Lies On The DayLight Over Chemicals Spill Story

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Top: The headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tubman Boulevard in Sinkor. The DayLight/Mark B. Newa


By Mark B. Newa

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lied by suggesting The DayLight did not contact it for the online newspaper’s story over a spillage of chemicals from a Bea Mountain Mining Corporation (BMMC) in a river in Grand Cape Mount County more than two months ago
  • The DayLight had actually contacted the EPA four days before its publication on April 19, accusing the EPA of concealing the pollution, Bea Mountain’s second in two years
  • An analysis of EPA’s website shows EPA published the report on the spillage on April 5, 2023, more than a month after the incident. There was no press statement as done in the past. The general public remained unaware of the pollution until The DayLight’s report
  • But publishing the report only on its website apparently breaks the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia, which requires the EPA to publish the spillage in a newspaper and broadcast it on a radio station
  • The DayLight has frowned on the other news outlets from publishing a press release from the EPA on the publication-concealment issue without contacting The DayLight or adding its side of the story provided in a well-circulated email

MONROVIA – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lied when it suggested The DayLight failed to contact the agency for a story on chemicals that spilled from a Bea Mountain Mining Corporation plant into a river in Grand Cape Mount County in  February this year.

Over a week ago, The DayLight reported that the EPA had concealed the report on the findings of the spillage. The report found that the waste plant at the New Liberty Goldmine leaked cyanide and copper sulphate into the Marvoe Creek and further into water sources in Jikondo in the Gola Konneh District. The chemicals, used to mine gold, are dangerous to people’s health and can lead to death. The spillage is the second in the last two years and the fifth in the last decade.

After the report, the EPA issued a press release, calling The DayLight story as a “diabolical lie.” It suggested that The DayLight did not check the site or contact its communication team before publishing its story.

“The Agency encourages media houses and individuals seeking information on the workings of the EPA to check its website and or contact its media and corporate communications office for information about the agency,” The EPA said in the release.

Screenshots of an email exchange between The DayLight’s Mark B. Newa and Danise Dennis-Dodoo, the head of the EPA corporate communications office show The DayLight contacted the agency over the publication of the report on Bea Mountain’s chemicals spills.

“The EPA is stunned that an online publication that [prides itself] as a credible outlet will depart from truth-telling as a core standard of journalism to telling lies to satisfy its funders’ criteria,” it added.  

But the release contradicts the facts. The DayLight had contacted Danise Dennis-Dodoo, the head of EPA’s corporate communication office, four days before the story was published. In fact, one of seven questions Mark B. Newa, the reporter who did the story had raised, concerning the publication of the report. “The agency will answer your questions and revert to your soonest,” Dennis-Dodoo said in a reply to the email at the time. Those answers have yet to come more than two weeks after this reporter’s email.

The DayLight has expressed concern over EPA’s failure to acknowledge the environmental newspaper contacted the agency. “The fact that the press release here does not mention that is defamation in itself,” said  Director/Managing Editor James Harding Giahyue.

Report Concealed

The date EPA published the February 19, 2023 report—and other documents on the website—is not reflected. However, The DayLight analysis of the document shows it was published on April 5, 2023.   That was more than a month after the pollution.  

Following last year’s spillage, the EPA issued three different statements. One booked Bea Mountain for that spillage, one reaffirmed its findings, and another dramatically cleared the company of any wrongdoing. All those statements were posted on Facebook, a preferred medium of communication for Liberians at home and abroad.

Unlike last year, the EPA made no public statement on the current spillage, which apparently indicates the agency tried to keep the spillage out of the public glare. The pollution was grave and residents of affected towns and villages had been prevented from drinking from creeks in the area for at least 45 days, according to the report. It was unclear whether they are allowed to use the waterfronts now.

The EPA probably violated the law by not widely circulating the report on the current spillage. The law says the EPA may choose to publish and broadcast the spillage—pollution control, inspection and investigation, to name some—in at least a newspaper and on a radio station. The environmental law mandates the EPA to “ensure maximum participation by the Liberian people in the management and decision-making processes of the environment and natural resources.” It guarantees “environmental information and promotes disclosure for the ultimate benefit of the environment.”

But apart from that, the technical language in the report does not make it ideal for public consumption.  That seemingly explains why there has been a public discourse on the spillage more than two months on.

Amid all of this, there is no public record that the EPA fined Bea Mountain for the spills this or last year. Public access to information is a right under the Environmental Protection and Management Law, while public participation is one of its guiding principles.  The law also ascribes to the global “polluter pays” principle.

The report said Bea Mountain did not implement some of the recommendations from last year’s spillage but did not specify. It had called on the EPA to punish the company for violating the law and the terms of its waste permit. Bea Mountain has not commented on the spillage.

One-sided Reports

News outlets, including The News, that lifted EPA’s press release against The DayLight’s initial article failed to include the environmental paper’s side of the story. Giahyue had replied to the EPA email when it issued the press release that Tuesday. The email thread copied a  horde of journalists and media institutions, including The News.

“Individuals and institutions accused in any story or a press release deserve a right of reply,” Giahyue said. “Publishing the EPA’s press release without trying to get our side is an affront to journalism.”


[CORRECTION: This version of the story corrects the previous to add the spill of 2018, making it five spills in the last decade]

Funding for this story was provided by the Green Livelihood Alliance (GLA 2.0) through the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI). The DayLight maintained complete editorial independence over the story’s content.

Bea Mountain Polluted River in Cape Mount Again, Report Finds

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Top: Investigators of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at Bea Mountain Mining Corporation’s waste plant in Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County. Picture credit: Facebook/EPA Liberia


By Mark B. Newa


MONROVIA – Chemicals from a waste facility operated by Bea Mountain Mining Corporation (BMMC) leaked into a river in Grand Cape Mount County in February,  a report concealed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), obtained by The DayLight, found.

It marks the second year in a row for the pollution to happen and the fifth time within the last decade, according to official records and The DayLight’s review of news articles.    

The report, conducted the same month of the spillage but has not been published, found cyanide and copper from the plant at the New Liberty Goldmine seeped into water sources in Jikando, Gola Konneh District. It said EPA investigators saw Bea Mountain release copper sulphate from the facility into the environment. Cyanide and copper sulphate are used to mine gold and are dangerous to people’s health, and can lead to death.   

“The death of aquatic species may have resulted from elevated free cyanide and dissolved copper levels due to exposure to higher than permissible limits of free cyanide,” the report said.  It called on Bea Mountain to “regularly repair and upgrade” the plant according to its waste management permit. It also mandated the firm to supply villagers with food and water for 45 days after February 20, and that the period could be extended.  

“No sign of life was observed in the Marvoe Creek,” according to the report. Marvoe Creek is one of the largest tributaries that connect to Mafa River, which meanders along several villages and empties into Lake Piso in Robertsport, the western county’s capital. 

By polluting the environment in the area, Bea Mountain violated the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia. Violators of the law face up to a US$50,000 fine upon conviction in court.

The report added that Bea Mountain collected its own sample, instead of an independent firm as the law requires. It said the lawyer of the community also extracted a sample of dead fish from the scene of the pollution.

The report said Bea Mountain did not implement all of the recommendations from the report on last year’s spillage but failed to mention specific recommendations.  It called on Bea Mountain to resettle villagers living next to the waste facility amid persistent pollution.

A diagrammed drone photo of the New Liberty Mine. Picture credit: Bea Mountain Mining Corporation

“The community vowed to protest if the issue of the pollution is not adequately addressed by the government,” it said.  People are migrating to other places since last year’s incident, leaving the Jikando with 250 people, according to the report. Other residents also want out, it added.

It was unclear whether the EPA notified the company of the penalties associated with the spillage, one of the things the report recommended.  EPA did not immediately respond to The DayLight’s queries on why it kept the report on this year’s spillage secret. Unlike last year’s incident, there was no statement or press conference this term. The public is yet to get any information on the penalties the agencies imposed on the company at any time.

Concealing information violates the public-participation principle of the environmental law of Liberia. The principle mandates the EPA to “ensure maximum participation by the Liberian people in the management and decision-making processes of the environment and natural resources.”

Previous Spills

This year’s spillage happened 10 months after the one last year. That May, an EPA report found spillage of chemicals from the same waste facility. Pictures of a dead dog and fish due to the spillage flooded social media pages.

The EPA said in a statement at the time the company “Severely disrupted and injured the livelihood of the communities that depend on these water sources.”  

Bea Mountain denied any wrongdoing, saying the report was “inconclusive and filled with analytical gaps. We are confident and particularly reaffirm our position of being in no breach of any required scientific standards,” it said in a statement at the time. The EPA then issued another statement, restating its position that a chemical compound had leaked from the company’s waste plant.

But in a dramatic turnaround, the EPA cleared the company of wrongdoing on August 8, just over two months after it found the leak. The agency said it was “pleased to inform you that all facilities tested were appreciably below the permissible level set up by the EPA.”

That was not the first spillage. There were three previous spills in 2015, 2016 and 2018. Villages said they caught rashes after using water from nearby creeks following the accident. Bea Mountain denied people sick.

In 2021, over 10,000 villagers filed a complaint with German and French banks DEG and Proparco, respectively, over 2015 the 2016 pollutions. The banks invested in the goldmine.

Efforts to contact Bea Mountain for this story did not immediately materialize. We will update the story once we get comments from the company or the EPA.

Bea Mountain Mining Corporation signed a 25-year agreement with the Liberian government on July 29, 2009. The Turkish-owned industrial goldmine is Liberia’s first goldmine. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, invested some £5.3 million in the project.  


[CORRECTION: This version of the story corrects a previous, which left out a 2018 spill to make it five in a decade]

Funding for this story was provided by the Green Livelihood Alliance (GLA 2.0) through the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI). The DayLight maintained complete editorial independence over the story’s content.

Report Accuses MOPP of Land Grab, Pollution and Labor Abuses

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created by dji camera

Top: The entrance of the headquarters of Maryland Oil Palm Plantation (MOPP) in Pleebo Sodoken District. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By Mark B. Newa


MONROVIA – The Maryland Oil Palm Plantation (MOPP) is involved in bad labor practices, land-grabbing and pollution, a new report by the nongovernmental organization the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) alleges. It accuses MOPP of wiping out local communities’ livelihood in violation of Liberian laws.  

The “Social and Environmental Impacts of Maryland Oil Palm Plantation in Liberia” report alleges the company of abusing the rights of locals to their land, and pushing them into poverty by polluting water sources and reneging on its concession obligations to develop their farms or smallholders program.  

“Today, we bring you compelling revelations… an open disregard of the rights and dignity of local communities affected by MOPP,” James Otto, a lead campaigner at SDI, told a press conference marking the launch of the report.  

“The SDI has worked to bring… issues impacting communities and environment, blatant violations of our laws and lack of respect for local communities on whose land whose land and resources company operates in our country,” Otto added.

SDI said it interviewed 23 people placed in 10 groups from seven communities for the report. It also interviewed the head of the local office of the EPA and local authorities, and photographs relevant places with global positioning system (GPS) coordinates.

MOPP did not answer queries for comments.

MOPP signed its concession agreement with the Liberian government in 2011 for covering 15,200 hectares of land in Maryland County and Grand Kru and worth US$230 million over the 25-year period. Owned by the Ivorian SIFCA Group, MOPP took over the ruins of Decoris Oil Palm Company, also based in the Ivory Coast after the end of the Liberia civil wars.  

Following in Decoris’ footsteps, MOPP with the aid of armed police, cleared communities’ lands, destroyed their ancestral graveyards dishonored traditional shrines and sacred sites, leading to riots.

Land-grab

MOPP abused communities’ rights to their ancestral land, the report says. The company did not get the consent of of local communities—including some that legally documents—before developing its plantation. It accuses the company of illegally including 6,400 acres of land on which it is obligated to develop farms for villagers, and that the company has no individual agreements with communities.  

Findings of the report are similar to a 2015 report by the Social Entrepreneur for Sustainable Development (SESDev) and Forest Peoples Programme.   

“Communities have the right to a formal and legally binding agreement with the company on the use of their lands,” Otto said. “MOPP urgently needs to start negotiating and listening to communities agree on terms and conditions of a lease, provide loss and damages and give back land to communities where requested.”

“If the employee or contractor is sick or even if he/she is hurt at work it will be noted as an ‘absence’ and the day salary is not paid – or employees receive only half of their due payment,” according to the report.

Criminalization

Citing unnamed sources, the report alleges that MOPP harasses and intimated citizens.

One woman said MOPP security guards arrested and beat her daughter who they accused of stealing palm nuts. The woman said “I had to pay L$3,000 to the MOPP security to free her.” Her comments are backed by a civil society actor.  

The report narrates an account of a local named Saturday Wilson, who it says has been frequently intimidated by MOPP for over a decade for a farmland in Gewloken, the town closest to MOPP’s headquarters.

“I am being threatened again and again repeatedly for the small piece of land owned by my family on which I planted palm. MOPP still wants to use the LLA agents and the court to take it away from me. As I speak, they are still after me.

Labor Issues

MOPP pays it contractors below the minimum wage (US$5.50 per day), cutting some contractors’ wages when they are sick or injured, the report alleges. The company does not permanently employ contractors even after three years.

“Contractors receive no payment for the day if production goals are not met. Production goals include the number of palms cleared of weeds as well as harvest volumes,” it says.   

A new report by the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) accuses Maryland Oil Palm Plantation (MOPP) of bad labor practices. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue.

Pollution

The report accuses MOPP of planting in swamps, a breach of its environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA), the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia, and principle of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the global watchdog for the commodity industry.  

MOPP’s mill waste and fertilizers are seeping into creeks used by locals for drinking water, it says, citing several locals.

“They planted palms in all the swamps around here. And when the palm started growing, they used to apply fertilizers and it really used to affect our water,” one says.  

And another, “They are still dumping the palm butter in the Swanpken river and people downstream are finding it difficult to use the water now.”  

In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined MOPP US$10,000 for importing several chemicals into the country without acquiring the requisite approval from the agency.

Livelihoods

Communities told SDI researchers that their livelihoods have been heavily compromised due to pollution, forest degradation and a shortage of land, according to the report.  

As the result, farmers have no access to herbs and firewood, forest to hunt, and waterfronts to fish, it says, adding grass the company had planted to control weeds are destroying their crops.  

“Reduced access to farmland increases food insecurity and less cash crops to support family incomes. Villages literally find the oil palms on their doorsteps. They have no living space or only degraded or poor areas where they can try and provide for their families,” the report added.

“The little farmland that we secured is no longer good because we have used it over and over again,” one farmer says in the report.

The report calls on MOPP to halt its expansion until it signs memoranda of understanding with communities, pays compensation for land-grab, completes the development of the mandatory smallholders’ program.

MOPP did not reply a set of questions from The DayLight on the issues raised in the report. The company did not respond to follow-up emails.

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