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Sand Mining Company Operates Illegally In Virginia

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Top: Lichi has operated in Virginia for more than a decade. Its license expired in June 2023 but is still operating in the area. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue


By Tina S. Mehnpaine, with Daily Observer  


VIRGINIA – Sailing over the St. Paul River, the dredging machine moves slowly from one point of the water to another in Waterside, Virginia.

Residents here are worried that the continuous dredging of sand from the river would cause erosion and affect their homes. But for Lichi Inc., sales are important so the dredging continues.

“We are suffering here bad way,” said Yamah Washington, who lives along the river. “The dust, no respect for us. The trucks are running 24\7.”

But Lichi should not have been in Virginia in the first place, at least not for the last 10 months. The Ministry Mines and Energy records show that its class B license expired on June 29 last year, it has not been renewed. All Class B licenses must be renewed every five years, according to Liberia’s Minerals and Mining Law. The company had been awarded the sand-mining license in 2012.

The Daily Observer visited the company’s site, excavators were seen hauling sand from the dredging machines at the bank of the river.

The failure of Lichi to renew its lesson while still operating defrauds the government of Liberia of U$10,000—the fees for a medium-scale mining license.  

Lichi was established in 2011 and is owned by Ikechukwu Godwin Ejideaku (40 percent), Francis Iyke Nwosu (30 percent) and Aruna Lahah (30 percent), according to the company’s article of incorporation. However, it has several employed Chinese miners.

Allegation of bribery

Lahah, also Lichi’s financial and tax consultant, admitted that the company has an expired license.  “Last year we did not pay, we are owing for last year and this year,” Lahah told the Daily Observer.  

Lahah blamed former Assistant Minister for Mines,  Emmanuel Swen, for  Lichi not renewing its license. He accused Swen of soliciting a bribe from the company to approve its renewal but presented no evidence.

“Minister Swen was collecting huge money from companies before he gave you a payment form to pay government tax, and we were not in the position to give him money for 2023.” 

A Lichi truck collects sand on the Roberts International Airport Highway. The DayLight/Harry Browne

Swen denies that accusation, saying that he requested Lichi to present a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between it and the community, which Lichi failed to provide.

“When we took over I didn’t know they didn’t have MOU so I noticed it in the second year. I asked them to produce it they appealed that it would require negotiation with the community.  So, I signed their license that year with the understanding that they shall negotiate with the community,” Swen said. 

“That year ended when they came for renewal so I insisted that I could not authorize the renewal of that license until they came with the MoU. At that point, I had to travel for studies I didn’t process the document. Since I came back, I [don’t] remember them coming to the office to meet up with me for processing of the license until we transitioned,” Swen added.

Daily Observer obtained a copy of the MoU in question, which shows the document was drafted in June and finalized in October 2021, the same month Swen traveled to London for studies.


CORRECTION: This version of the story corrects the details on Lichi’s shareholders from Vaanii Baker and Peter Scot in the previous version to Ikechukwu Godwin Ejideaku, Francis Iyke Nwosu and Aruna Lahah.

The story was a collaboration between The DayLight and Daily Observer. The United States Embassy in Monrovia provided funding for this story. Daily Observer and The DayLight maintained editorial independence over the story’s content.

EPA Shuts Down and Fines Firms for Violations

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Top: Acting EPA Executive Director, Dr. Emmanuel Urey Yarkpawolo (Left). The DayLight/ Esau J. Farr


By Esau J. Farr


MONROVIA­­ – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has fined two companies and shut down another for violations of the Environmental Protection and Management Law.

East International Construction Company, which builds roads, got the lion’s share of the fines.

“East International is hereby fined US$55,000 to be paid in Government Revenue at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) with an official receipt presented to the EPA,” Acting EPA Executive Director Dr. Emmanuel Yarkpawolo told a news conference on Tuesday.

An EPA investigation found East International operates under an expired environmental permit, Yarkpawolo said. Investigators also found the company liable for air pollution over its construction of the Roberts International Airport Highway.

“Some people reported respiratory problems such as coughing and asthma as the major health issues affecting them,” Yarkpawolo said. He ordered East International to follow the law.

The EPA shut down Fengshou International, an affiliate of East International.

Yarkpawolo said the company would remain closed “until a more sustainable method is approved by the EPA.”

The company unsustainably backfilled and was constructing a two-kilometer road on a portion of the Marshall Wetland in Margibi County,  protected under a UN convention. The EPA also found that Fengshou extended its rock quarrying into the wetland and constructed a rock sale point there without authorization.

East International and Fengshou did not immediately respond to queries.

Wetlands

The EPA says it was taking wetlands’ protection seriously, and citizens closest to the mangroves.

“In the coming days, the EPA will conduct a thorough engagement with relevant institutions of government and other stakeholders to curtail the upsurge in the wave of wetland degradations,” Dr. Yarkpawolo said.

“Recent complaints and EPA field assessment reports have highlighted massive clearing of mangroves along the Police Academy SKD Boulevard, as well as backfilling activities, including Pago’s Island, New Matadi Fanti Town, Dixville, Jacob Town, etc,” Yarkpawolo said.

The EPA called on the media to help in providing public awareness and asked the public to cooperate with the agency in protecting wetlands.

“The EPA will be engaging with relevant law enforcement authorities to arrest all violators,” Yarkpawolo added.

The EPA fined Quezp Mining Company US$2,999 and ordered it to fund a US$12,999 restoration plan for two zircon-sand mines it operates in Brewerville and Royesville. The DayLight/Charles Gbayor

Earlier, the EPA ordered Quezp Mining Corporation Inc. to pay nearly US$16,000 for illegal sand mining activities in Brewerville and Royesville. A DayLight investigation showed that Quezp did not have licenses for the operations. The company’s mineworkers fled the area after the publication.

The EPA fined Quezp US$2,999 for mining without an environmental permit. It mandated the company to restore the environment it disturbed in the two communities with a US$12,999 plan.

Yarkpawolo said that the fines must be paid in three days after official communication with Quezp.

Terrence Collins, Quezp’s owner and CEO, did not respond to queries for comments on the matter.  

Sinoe Residents Protest Against Chinese Miners’ Operation

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A Kru tribesman protests against a min


By James Harding Giahyue


DU-WOLEE, Sinoe County – Villagers in a township in Sinoe County’s Kpayan District last week blocked the entrance of a company mining sand in that area, claiming not to have taken part in a memorandum of understanding with their community.

The protestors, some dressed in warlike traditional outfits, and set up roadblocks, chanted battle cries in the Du-Wolee township, demanding their concerns about jobs and other benefits be addressed.

“We are stopping them because there is no understanding between them and us,” said Daddy Nyanswah, the spokesperson for the protestors, in a town hall meeting. “The MoU they even signed, community people don’t get one. It’s between [them] and the Commissioner.

“They have been for over four months now, and calling them to meet they will not come so for their own bogus MoU they agree they have,” Nyanswah added.  

“They told the community that before the operation we will come to you people and employ 25 persons for the first phase. Today they’re doing their own thing they started the operation,” a furious Nyanswah said.

Darius Nagbe, the Commissioner of Du-Wolee township denied the villages did not participate in the signing of the agreement, dubbing Nyanswah and other protestors “detractors.”  

“That information is far from the truth, it’s from the belly of the devil,” Nagbe told The DayLight in an interview in Blue Barracks, where the protest was taking place. “Everybody came from all angles, they all assembled here and the MoU was signed.”

Nagbe’s comments were backed by Lawrence Kwame Frank, an interpreter with the Chinese-Liberian-owned. DayLight has requested a copy of the agreement.

But a video on Nagbe’s mobile phone shows people of the township signing a document, with officials of the county, including Nagbe.

Glorious Mining Company Inc. has a five-year semi-industrial scale license to mine sand on 25 acres on Du-Wolee’s beachfront. This reporter visited the firm’s mine and witnessed Liberian and Asian workers erecting camp houses and setting up equipment. Huge sandbars could be seen at a number of locations, an indication mining was taking place.

Glorious Mining Company Inc. Has a five-year sand mining license in Kpayan District, Sinoe County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

It was unclear whether the company was mining sand or zircon sand, a mineral used in the electronics and ceramics industries. Its equipment looks like those of a zircon-sand mining operation, while its license says sand.

The license also shows that the company was only awarded the rights to mine in that area on 21st December, just under two weeks before the protest. However, the company had been working there six months earlier, according to residents and Frank.

Frank said the Glorious was only testing its equipment and would begin actual employment soon as it promised in the MoU.

“The employment we talking about I am working after the workers’ employment,” Frank said as two Chinese men by his side. “Employment is a process.  If I prepare I have to send it to labor they will see it before I print it out. I have more than 200 employment forms in my house.

“We been here for six months, we just building our residence, we will not be working here and we are in Greenville. So building our residence and the equipment we will be using to do the work,” he added.   

News of the protest reached the police in Greenville, Sinoe’s capital less than one kilometer away. The police then brokered a peace talk between the protestors and the company, ending the protest.

“We are here for peace,” said Charles Daniel Nyegbah, a traditional leader, dressed in palm leaves and grass and posted at the barricade. “I am here for peace am not here for bloodshed.”

A tribesman stands at a roadblock set up in protest against the operation of Glorious Mining Company in Du-Wolee, Sinoe County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue  

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

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