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Grand Kru: Illicit Mining on the Dougbo (Droh) River Despite Government’s Ban

Scores of illicit Chinese and Ghanaian miners are using dredges to mine on the Droh River in Weslo Clan in the Norweslo Administrative District of Grand Kru County, over 20-kilometer west of Barclayville, despite a ban on the use of the machines imposed by the Ministry of Mines and Energy in October of 2019. 

Reports collected and followed up by community TIMBY monitors reflected that illicit miners pay chiefs and elders of towns and villages alone the river to mine. In Putu Town, commonly known as “Civilized Village”, miners also pay locals LD 2,000.00 for each number of dredges they put on the river.

The community and the miners went into a verbal agreement, which was transcribed into a hand written one by the community. It indicated that the LD 2,000.00 will be paid for boats (containing dredges). The agreement mentioned six mining heads: Mlenn Joe, Emmanuel Nyankan, Prince Kan, Alphonso Zing, Sagbe Doe Jr., and Nathaniel, all of whom agreed to paid LD 2,500.00 initially.

Victor Nmah, a spokesman for the Weslo clan, disclosed to the TIMBY monitors that the money wasn’t forthcoming as expected. So when they consulted the company, they laid the condition that they could only pay if they mined much gold.

“I heard over the radio that the Government put a ban to the use of dredge,” Victor Nmah spoke to TIMBY monitors. “I believe the miners heard that too, but they didn’t give it much attention.  They left our river and moved up toward Putu Town. I heard from rumors that they are planning to bring excavators.”

Some residents of Putu Town spoke to the TIMBY monitors that confusion recently broke out in the community over the payment of dredging fees. One of the affected communities, the miners had make verbal agreement that the miners pay LD15,000 monthly to the town through their District Commissioner, Mr. Vincent Putu, but that left other villagers dissatisfied and demanded the money be paid to the community’s general town chief, Mr. John B. Broh. 

“I was in Monrovia while Mohammed, the intermediary between the Chinese and us, met with the district commissioner, Mr.  Vincent Putu.” Says Mr. Broh, general town Chief of Putu Town. “My assistant called and told me that the Chinese gave our money to the Commissioner, and the commissioner handed the money to him. It was sum of LD 15,000.00. When I heard that I was excited, but raised a concern as to why the Chinese didn’t meet with the community in a general town meeting to discuss about their plans, but instead chose the District Commissioner.  When I got back from Monrovia, I met with the District Commissioner and he told me their initial discussion.  So I decided to meet with Mohammed…but he did not honor my request. The community demanded Mr. Putu to hand over their money without delay.  He got angry and told the community to officially write to his office before getting their money. “

Commissioner Putu admitted that he received the said amount from the Chinese on behalf of the community but said the Chinese refused, insisting to deal only with him. “Because of this the community accused me of taking their money,” he said. “I told them to write for their money for the sake of documenting their request so that they won’t say I didn’t give them money.”

The mining chairman of Putu Town, only identified as Shakay, reported that a miner in Barclayville identified only as Lee, bought five claims along the Droh River.  But that information is not backed by the online repository of the Ministry of Mines. There are 79 active licenses in Grand Kru County, according to the online repository. Of that number, there are 68 class “C” licenses, which means the county has the highest number of artisanal miners in the country.

The Dougbo River runs through several communities in the Weslo Clan and has been used for decades by communities along the banks of the river for drinking water, fishing and other purposes.  

Locals reported the community TIMBY monitors that the illegal miners are destroying livelihood. Philip, a resident of Sloyen, one of the affected communities, said that the loud sound of dredges scared away fishes from the river. “Before, I used to wait one hour after the miners quiet down the dredge before fishing, but since they started constantly using the dredge throughout the day, catching a fish is so difficult,” Philip said, adding that his neighbors in Borlor are facing a drinking water crisis due to the dredging.

According to environmentalists, dredging has social impacts on the environment. Dredging muddies rivers, distorts the communication of marine species important to their reproduction.

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