Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Carnie Johnson on the Hotseat: Prez Sirleaf’s Brother Defends AmLib Mining

Carnie Johnson on the Hotseat: Prez Sirleaf’s Brother Defends AmLib Mining

Source: http://www.frontpageafrica.com/newsmanager/anmviewer.asp?a=11036&z=37

06/23/2010 - Moses Varfee Kowo, mvkowo@FrontPageAfrica.com, 077-099-611

Monrovia – Amlib mineral company represented by the elderly brother of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Carnie Johnson has been facing a strong line of questioning over the role of the company in Kokoyah Bong County.

Lawmakers have been expressing concerns about reports that company has not started full scale operations since the agreement was in 2003. Johnson, a consultant to the company told a joint Legislative committee on Ways, Means and Finance and Committee on Public Procurement and Investment hearing that since the agreement was signed more than seven years ago; it has only discovered 700 thousand ounces of gold in the Kokoyah area.

But Johnson told the legislative hearing this week that in order for Amlib to go into full scale mining of Gold in the area it needed to first find at least 1 million ounces of Gold to secure the interest of all parties including the company’s shareholders. The president’s Elder brother said the company as part of its social responsibility to the society, has constructed wells and school for the people of Kokoyah district.

Said Johnson: “Our corporate social responsibility falls under four areas, one infrastructure, two education, three health AND LAST PUBLIC RELATIONS. WE HAVE BUDGETED FOR THE PERIOD July 2010 and we started providing funds in January but it does not cover the whole year. So far between the period January and June we have engaged the communities of Dolo town Dahn town and Saywah town. We have agreed to ASSIST IN THE CONSTRUCT OF two schools, we agreed to drill three wells in each of these towns and we agreed to construct latrine facilities which will be attached to the schools. We have spent 35 thousand united states dollars already to buildings these institutions, the one in Saywah town is about half way done, the one in Dahn town the foundation is finished.

Johnson explained that between June 2010 and June 2011, Amblib will spend $150 thousand United States dollars and hopes to extend what it has done to other parts of Kokoyah.

Amlib Action ‘Appalling’, lawmaker says

But lawmakers were concerned that the company has not been able to provide jobs for Liberians despite pressure from that group for lawmakers to pass a mineral development agreement signed with the executive when it had in mind that it has not reach the necessary threshold needed to go into mining.

One lawmaker, Emmanuel Nuquay of Margibi said the company’s action was appalling that it could not provide jobs even though the company had pressured members of the Legislature to ratify the MDA.

In response Mr. Johnson said Amlib had collected geological samples of a possible deposit of gold necessitating the need for a request for license or MDA.

It was established during the hearing that the company violated the mining law of the country by going more five years that is set for any company to do exploration in a particular area before going into mining. But the company leadership said it took eight years because of the civil conflict in 2002 and 2003.

Residents of the district have in recent months, complained that the company has failed to meet up with its social responsibility to the people of that district.

The Kokoyah district residents in a petition to the Legislature said the company was digging out the grave of their forefathers in search of Gold with no benefit to the people of the community.

A spokesman of Kokoyah citizens who spoke to FrontPageAfrica following the presentation by the president’s brother before a House committee said the company officials were lying and there has been no construction of school or engagement with the community.

Henry Yallah, said the company had promised that it has 75 thousand United States Dollars to help the community but said, that has not come to fruition. “My brother let me be very clear with you, all of that are wrong and misleading; they have not placed a single stone into the ground. In fact part of a meeting last month the people presented a statement to their representative that the company, has not done anything for the people of Kokoyah in Bong County besides digging. If you ask them they tell you we are drilling and they have been drilling for the past seven years nonstop. But Mr. Johnson told the joint committee of both the House and Senate that they could not go into drilling until they meet the threshold of a million ounces of gold.

Prior to Johnson’s appearance, AmLib Liberia faced accusations of carrying out illegal logging in Kokoya Bong County and was said to have used US$45,000 to allegedly bribe members of the House of Representatives to seal another mining agreement in two counties (Grand Gedeh and Rivercess).

At the time of the reports, the company also came under scrutiny for reportedly enjoying the best immunities in Liberia as several senior officials of government according to a FrontPageAfrica investigation benefited from the illegal mining of the company in Bong County.

In 2006, Liberian President Sirleaf issued Executive Order #1 which called for the renegotiation of all previous mining and concession agreements. Firestone and Mittal Steel are amongst some of the concessionaries that were affected by the Presidential executive Order. But AmLib faced accusations that it remained untouched by the order.

AmLib applied for exploration license in Kokoya in 2003 for a three year period, but has been carrying on what should have been done in three years, for the past seven years without applying for official mining license, or backing off, in case there is no sufficient gold in the area.

By Liberia mining regulations, when a company applies for exploration license, if during exploration it does not find the needed sample to apply for mining license, the company will have to reapply for additional time to further exploration, something that was not done in the case of AmLib, as there is no agreement showing the extension of AmLib exploration license.

Audit of the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy for fiscal period 2006/2007 by the General Auditing Commission of Liberia (GAC), showed Johnson as holder of four different mining licenses.

Within the audit report, Johnson is the representative of Bokon Jedeh Resources located Opposite the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (L.P.R.C), on the Bushrod Island and also representative of AmLib Liberia.

According to the audit report, Johnson was awarded four different mining licenses by the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy with the operations of the remaining two companies unknown.

Auditor General John S. Morlu, II in his observation stated that the mining laws of Liberia are being constantly violated and recommended that officials of the Ministry of Lands, mines and Energy revisit the granting of licenses and punish violations of the mining laws.

“I recommend that the MLME officials revisit the Minerals and Mining Laws by amending the section of the mining laws that will provide tougher actions against violators of the Mining Laws/KPCS in Liberia, so as to discourage would be violators”, the Auditor General noted.

The audit discovered inconsistencies in the report of mining activities in Liberia, indicating that some mining companies might not be registered, but are still operating illegally.

“I therefore recommend that the MLME Management provide justification on the inconsistencies noted in the various reports on mining and exploration companies operating in Liberia”, portion of the GAC audit reported indicated.

After conducting exploration in Kokoya for over seven years without applying for mining license, AmLib entered into agreement with the Liberian government for additional two mining areas in Grand Gedeh and Rivercess, while the citizens of Kokoya still crying foul over the operation of the company in their communities.

US$45,000 Sails AmLib Agreement

The company faced more scrutiny last year when members of the House of Representatives were accused of being paid US$45,000, to seal the ratification of mining agreement in Grand Gedeh and Rivercess counties. A FrontPageAfrica investigation uncovered in 2009 that the company made two separate payments to the House of Representatives, to ensure the speedy ratification of the mining contract before the lawmakers takeoff for their usual agricultural break early September.

AmLib, according to the investigation made an initial payment of US$30,000 to the joint House committee on Investment and Concessions and Contracts, Monopolies and Public Procurement and completed the payment with an additional US$15,000 after the ratification of the contract by the House of Representatives.

An insider at AmLib confided in FrontPageAfrica that Representatives Moses Kollie (Lofa County-and Liberia Action Party), head of the committee on Investment and Concessions, and Edwin M. Snowe (Independent, Montserrado County), head of the Contracts, Monopolies and Public Procurement were involved in the sharing of the money to fellow lawmakers. Snowe declined several inquiries for comment when contacted by FrontPageAfrica. Snowe did remark in passing, that he was never in favor of the deal, and was very vocal against the Amlib contract.

Further investigation indicates that Representatives Edward Forh (Montserrado County-Congress for Democratic Change), believed to be a brother to the head of AmLib, Roosevelt Forh was involved in the negotiation for the payment of the US$45,000 to the House of Representatives.

Roosevelt Forh when contacted told FrontPageAfrica that AmLib did not pay any money to the lawmakers. “We did not pay money to anybody, is it the lawmakers that told you we paid money to them? Forh quizzed FrontPageAfrica.

For Representative Kollie, he threatened court action against FrontPageAfrica for what he described as an attempt to blackmail him.

Threatened Court Action For ‘Blackmailing’

Rep. Kollie described the allegation as totally untrue and said, it is intended to blackmail and tarnish the reputation of reputable lawmakers. “Look, I think it’s about time that we start taking people to court for unprofessional behavior to destroy people. Why would people always blackmail others for their own selfish gains and when you ask them about where they gathered the information, they tell you that they can’t disclose their source”, said Rep. Kollie in an angry mood.

The Lofa County lawmaker threw out an open challenge to anyone who has evidence of his committee ever receiving bribe from anyone for the AmLib deal.

He also asserted, “This kind of blackmailing is doing the country no good”.

Two other lawmakers Edwin Snowe and Edward Forh failed to answer to their cell phones in an attempt to get their side of the story.

The AmLib agreement was debated for less than an hour before it was unanimously endorsed by the House of Representatives, and forwarded to the Senate for concurrence.

In 2009, the Chief Executive Officer of the company Jeff Eyre, based in the United Kingdom paid a short visit to Liberia to ascertain what is obtained with the operations of the company. Eyre, according to credible sources while in Liberia, expressed disappointment over the manner in which the company is being run, especially its involvement in alleged dubious activities.

The AmLib official according to the investigation, spent one day in Liberia and departed the following day, as it remains unclear if he was angry at the manner in which the company is being run, or brought along more money for lobbying with the Liberian Senate for concurrence on the agreement.

Franklin Siakor (Bong County Independent),was one of the senators who expressed opposition to the ratification of the AmLib agreement. Senator Siakor is contending that AmLib failed to perform in Kokoya, and should not be given additional mining areas.

“AmLib has been operating in Bong county since 2002, with no benefit to the community and people of that county. I have told my colleagues in the senate that before we can go into another agreement with AmLib for Grand Gedeh and Rivercess counties, which is now before us, we should make sure that AmLib is able to put back into the communities some of the resources it is taking out of these communities”, Senator Siakor stated.

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Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

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