The China Railroad No. 5 Engineering Group Co. Ltd (CR5), signed a memorandum of understanding with Boniken in Kanbo clan in Maryland County in December 2016 to use its land to quarry rocks. The subsidiary of the Transport Construction Conglomerate, which constructs subways and high-speed roads around the world, had singed an US$42.7 million contract with the Liberian government on September 11, 2015 to construct the 50-kilometer Fish Town-Harper Road in southeastern Liberia.
In the MOU, CR5 agreed to Boniken a land rental fee of U$15,000, build the six-bedroom guesthouse and recondition the dusty road connecting Boniken to its neighbors Doloken for the three years the company will quarry rocks on Boniken’s land. But nearly four years after the MOU, the company has not kept those commitments.
Boniken is one of the twelve communities under the Kanbo Clan in Maryland. It borders Tuo chiefdom on the North, Pleebo City on the South, Gbolobo clan on the East and Yelewobo chiefdom on the West. It has a population of over 2,920, with most of its citizens being farmers.
There were problems right from the start, an investigation by Social Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development (SESDev) found. Before the mining could begin, locals say the community asked for the homes that were closer to the mining site to be relocated, but the company refused on grounds that the homes weren’t close to site. The Environmental Protection Agency came okayed the project.
But as the quarrying began, the community begin to suffer from the effects of quarrying. Quarrying produces dust, pollutes drinking water, results to noise pollution and, among other things, sends rock particles to nearby areas, environmentalists say.
“I had to relocate as my house began gradually falling down, said Mr. Samuel Hinnah, Clan chief of Boniken. “With the help of the community and the little money I had in savings, I immediately constructed a new home.” He said other residents also had to relocate.
An International agency came in and calculated the distance between the company’s quarrying site and, Hinnah and Biliby’s homes, and said they were only 80.3 meters, locals say. Quarry zones and homes should be at least 800 meters apart as per international best practices.
Aside from the complaints, the company has not completed the dusty road it agreed to do between October 25, 2019 and November 30, 2019. Road network in the community is a major challenge during the rainy season as locals found it difficult to travel. Heavy rainfall leaves the rural roads flooded and muddy during the rainy season.
The company is also lagging behind on the construction of the guesthouse. It should have completed construction by October 30 but failed to do so, blaming the rainy season for not meeting deadline. It has asked for an extension, locals say.
According to Biliby, section clerk of the community, said the company had not done a good work on the guesthouse so far, ant that cracks were on the walls of the guesthouse. He said since the company wrote the community a letter for the extension letter, it has stopped receiving communicating with the community. The company have stopped all work on the quarry site, investigators found.