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Sand Mining Company Operates Illegally In Virginia


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.