Liberia Robbed of Millions in Illicit Gold, Diamond Trade

Liberia is said to be robbed of millions of dollars in illicit gold and diamond trade engaged in by unlicensed Liberians and foreign nationals who are taking advantage of loosed, unattended and unimplemented regulations attributed to the ministry lands, mines and energy. Gold and diamond are among mineral resources Liberia is endowed with, but the management of the hugely economic booming sector remains a challenge as the government is reportedly fl at-footed in taking actions that help curb the porosity and vulnerability thereof.

Experts said diamond and gold are uniquely important to the development of any nation provided resources from there are used in the most sagacious and transparent manner as they are to the outbreak of conflict.

Liberia’s nearly 14 years conflict dragged so protractedly due to what experts blamed on competing interests from within and without to control the sector and maximize profits negatively or positively.

Because of the vulnerability of the sector to illicit traders and miners, the mismanagement of resources and danger associated with lacking the ability to regulate the sector, the United Nations slammed sanctions on the exploration of Liberian diamond until certain certified conditions were met.

However, with close to ten years of stability of the post-conflict governance process, the diamond/ gold sector is still plagued with myriad challenges, the most protruding being authorities’ inability to put a lid of control in place.

These developments are of concern to the National Mineral Brokers Association and the leadership of the Gold and Diamond Workers Union of Liberia who have indicated that millions worth of gold and diamond are lost to illegal dealers, a situation they claim undermines not only the country’s revenue generation capacity but also the economy as a whole.

According to the accounts of the two structures, the country loses several millions of minerals to dealers who do not even have broker’s license to venture in the trade.

Addressing a news conference, National Mineral Brokers Association Secretary General Pastor Ben Zinnah squarely blamed the government, most especially authority at the ministry of land, mines and energy for not regulating the mining sector, but failed to provide a clear picture in terms of dollars and cents.

The alleged lack of control by the lined ministry, he said, was costing government millions in illegal diamond and gold mining and selling.

Illegal mining and selling of gold and diamond were done by illegal miners, most of whom he said are aliens spread across the country at various mining sites.
What is most frustrating as far as the illegal diamond and gold trade is concerned, Pastor Zinnah said illegal miners were engaged in smuggling diamond out of Liberia, but called on the government through the ministry of land, mines and energy to step up campaigns in monitoring and regulating the mining sector of the country.

“Illegal mining is also affecting Liberians who are officially registered with government to do the business and at the same time provide employment and contribute to the Liberian economy,” Pastor Ben said.

He said the miners civil society organization has over the years tried to uphold regulations but to no avail, adding that they could no longer allow their efforts and contributions being exploited by illegal miners who were contributing nothing to the country.

Officials of the ministry could not be reached up to press time, but the Ellen-led government has reportedly embarked series of reforms since its inception. Statistics from the Liberia Extractive Industry Initiative (LEITI) show that during the 14 years of war, all major mines were closed and the mineral sector’s contribution to the economy was reduced to a negligible level.

In 2010, Liberia made significant progress in reviving the mining sector, which before 1990 had contributed more than 65% of the country’s export earnings and represented about 25% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

In 2010, the contribution of the mining sector to the GDP was 0.9%. The mineral commodities produced included cement, diamond and gold. Liberia’s undeveloped mineral resources included base metals, such as cobalt, lead, manganese, nickel, and tin, and industrial minerals, such as dolorite, granite, ilmenite, kyanite, phosphate rock, rutile, silica sand and sulfur.

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