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Miners’ Operations Halted over Problematic MoU

An elevated view of Huiren Mining Company Camp in Jackson Village, Bong County / The Daylight/ Charles Gbayor

Top: An elevated view of Huiren Mining Inc. plant in Jackson Village, Bong County. The DayLight/Charles Gbayor

By Matenneh Keita

MONROVIA – The Ministry of Mines and Energy has halted a mining company’s operations in Bong County for violating its memorandum of understanding with local communities.

The ministry said it had invited Huiren Mining Inc. representatives and the Jorpolu Clan townspeople in Jorquelleh District, Bong County, to Monrovia to correct “serious errors” in the MoU.

“We notice that the company decided to close their eyes or play deaf ears to the MoU so, as an institution, the Ministry decided to move in,” said Arma George Fully, the Director of Mines.   

“If a company will work effectively, the community where that company works should be satisfied,” Fully said.

Villagers celebrated the move.

I feel fine for the government to come in for our citizens to benefit,” said Benedict Belekabolu, the youth chairman of Gbarmue, one of Huiren’s affected towns.

“The Ministry of Mines and Energy coming in to close Huerin Mining Inc. is [a step] in the right,” added Washington Bonnah, the former District Commission of Jorquelleh District.

Daniel Toe, Huiren’s project manager, did not respond to queries for comments on this story.

Huiren, a majority-Chinese-owned company, was granted a medium-scale license to mine gold in 2021. Afterward, it signed an MoU with Jorpolu to lease the clan’s land in exchange for periodic payments and social benefits.

But three years on, the company has failed to live up to the MoU, leaving villagers to struggle for drinking water and other things.

People in Jorpolu struggle to get drinking water as Huiren Mining activities have polluted creeks like this one in the clan. The DayLight/Charles Gbayor

A recent survey by Civic and Service International (CSI), an NGO working in mining communities, found that affected communities do not have a copy of the document or are aware of it.  

“This is an assurance and an opportunity for voiceless people to be heard and a game-changer…,” said Otis Bundor, CSI’s country director.

Fully told The DayLight the Ministry would make sure the new MoU will respect the rights of locals.

“Things that the community will need, things that the community wants to benefit… will be placed in that MoU,” Fully said. “We will not sit and the company go and draft an MoU and just put things that will benefit them and not the community.”

Marvin Cole, the Representative of Bong County District Number Three, oversaw the creation of the current MoU between the parties.

Cole squashed a previous MoU for being “weak” and a “disservice” because he did not participate in its writing. However, the one he helped carve reduced the villagers’ benefits by US$400 and veiled their relationship with the miners in secrecy.

Like the one before it, the Cole-inspired MoU did not obligate Huiren to erect handpumps, pave roads and build a clinic or hospital.

A DayLight investigation found that affected towns and villages were unaware the company paid money into a bank account Cole helped open.

Fully said Cole and local government officials would participate in drafting the new MoU. Cole did not immediately return questions for comments on the matter.

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