Liberia: Complaint Targets American Mining Associates

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(Rapaport…June 13, 2006) While Liberia awaits the United Nations decision on whether or not diamond sanctions will continue for the foreseeable future, The Economist Group, umbrella organization of the The Economist weekly news, reports that Liberia’s diamond sector requires further reforms. The publication reports that American Mining Associates has a large-scale diamond operation in Liberia and has requested authorities remove about 14,000 residents living on land the company sees as its own concession.

There is no doubt progress has been made by Liberia’s ministry of lands, mines, and energy, reports The Economist Group, but illegal diamond mining in the western county of Gbarpolu continues. Local representatives from Garma and Koungbar filed formal complaints charging that government officials have been allowing American Mining Associates to use earth-moving equipment to mine diamonds. Evidence from press reports indicate that American Mining Associates was operating at minimal capacity in year 2004, but increased operations to full capacity in July 2005, which was in violation of interdict on mining activities.

The case is under investigation. reported ministry representative Matthew Darblo as saying the continuous conflict between the locals and American Mining Associates is “very serious” and needs to be handled speedily so as to avoid reaching a crisis situation of alarming proportion.

In a March 2005 letter from Liberia sanctions committee chair to the United Nations Security Council, Ellen Margrethe Loj reported that American Mining Associates had by that time already upgraded access roads to its concession for two-way traffic. Additionally the company was using earth-moving equipment and had built a “fully mechanized washing plant.”

Company president Gene Byrge has consistently stated to the local press and to United Nations investigators that operations are restricted to exploratory activities.

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