‘‘Most importantly, we call upon Bea Mountain to have the people of Jikandoh relocated to a safe area, an undertaking which is the lesser of the two compelling imperatives, one to stop the operations of the Company until the sippage of cyanide into the land and waters of Jikandoh is remediated, or to have the people of Jikandoh relocated to a safe area where their fundamental right to safe drinking water is respected,’’ the Managing Director, Sannoh & Partners for the People of Jkandoh, Darblo Clan, Grand Cape Mount County, Republic of Liberia, Cllr. Benedict F. Sannoh, pointed out in a press release issued in Monrovia on Thursday, August 11, 2022.
The law firm group’s call to the GoL regarding the protection of lives of its citizen in Jikandoh and the urge for Bea Mountain to take the appropriate steps to prevent the gradual sippage of cyanide into the land & water ways of Jikandoh and sorrounding comunities from its Tillings Storage Facilities was in response to a press release issued in Monrovia on August 8, 2022 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in relation to its assessment of the Marvoe River, downstream of the New Liberity Gold Mine in Grand Cape Mount County.
According to the law firm group, ‘‘Under international human rights laws, water is protected as a human right. The United Nations (UN), of which Liberia is a founding member, officially adopted water as a human right in 2022. Prior to this, Liberia had already ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1966, Section 15 of which states that The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.”
‘‘The right to water essentially requires that water should never contain anything that could pose a health threat to life. The Government of Liberia, as a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is therefore obliged to ensure that the people of Jikandoh enjoy their basic human rights.
To do so, the Government of Liberia must not only respect the right of the people of Jikandoh to safe drinking water in rhetoric, it must protect this right in practical terms by preventing third party interference, such as the case of Bea Mountain. We encourage the Government of Liberia to use Jikandoh incident as a wakeup call in light of the proliferation of industries and mining companies in Liberia, to consider the establishment of legislation that prohibits mining companies and industries from polluting drinking water,’’ the law firm group asserted in its press release.
‘’We will remain engaged with the Government and Bea Mountain Mining Company in this direction to ensure that the rights of the people of Jukandoh are respected, realized and fulfilled, failing which the people of Jkandoh will be contrained to seek appropriate redress locally and internationally, through advocacy and appropriate legal intervention. We encourage Bea Mountain and the Government of Liberia to obviate this recourse,’’ the law firm group asserted in its press release.
On August 8, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Press Release in relation to its assessment of the Marvoe River, downstream of the New Liberity Gold Mine in Grand Cape Mount County. For the purpose of this Press Release, the law firm group quotes the concluding paragraph of EPA’s Press Release as followed.
“Based on the results of the final rounds of assessment, the Agency is pleased to report that all parameter tested are appreciately below the permissible limits set by EPA. The water resource is safe for all intents and purpose.”
It could be recalled that on May 25, 2022 immediately following reports that several aquatic species were found dead in the Marvoe Creek, in Jikandoh, Darblo Clan, Grand Cape Mount County, EPA launched an investigation , the initial phase of which included sample collection, social interveiews, community engagement, environmental scoping, geospatial data, and drone imaginery downstream of Bea Mountain Operations and continued upstream to assess the quality of the water, probe the authenticity of the alleged pollution and to trase plausible sources of the pollution.
The Ministry of Health (MOH), the Nationa Public Health Institute (NPHIL), and the Ministry of Mines and Energy also visited the Jkandoh and conducted separate investigations and assessments, but have failed, neglected and refused to relaease any reports or recommendations in spite o demands on them to do so. In a Press released following its initial investigation, EPA stated that its investigation revealed a “higher than the permissible level of free cyanides wi upth sources from the Bea Mountain Corporation Tilling storage facility resulting in dissolved oxygen level.”
Based on these findings, EPA advised that until a final determination is made as to full remedial actions and their orderly implementation, all affected communities should desist from using and or consuming anything from the water which effectively meant that the people of Jkandoh should desist from drinking the water from the Marvoe Creek, from fishing therein, from eating any aquatic products including fish, shrimps or crabs, and from using the water for bathing and cooking. EPA also indicated that there is a need to widen the investigation.
Consequently, in July 2022, nearly two months after the initial incident, EPA conducted that further investigation which also included sample collections, environmental scoping and community engagement. It is out of this second investigation that EPA concluded all parameter tested are appreciately below the permissible limits set by EPA. The water resource is safe for all intents and purpose.”
‘‘One does not have to be a rocket scientist to know that because of the passage of time and the heavy downpour of rain, whatever concentration of cyanide and other contaminants that led to the May 25 incident would have dissipated or decreased considatably two months after the incident. Notwithstanding, the first and second reports of EPA, read together, have essentially reached the same conclusion that (i) there is cyanide in the waters and land of Jikandoh with source from the Bea Mountain Mining Corporation Tilling storage facility and (ii) that cyanide level found in the waters and lands of Kinkandoh is, however, below the permissible limits set by EPA.’’
The law firm group argued that the EPA report does not suggest and cannot be construed that contamination of the Marvoe did not take place. Cyanide is not a naturally occuring element of free drinking water. According to World Health Organization Guidelines, Cyanide is found in drinking water primarily as a consequence of industrial contamination. That said, the EPA report leaves a number of questions unaswered.
It states that as of August 8, 2022, the waters and Wells in Jikandoh are “safe for drinking from all intents purpose,’ but fails to address the potential “cumulative effect” on the people of Jikandoh from the dinking of water with low levels of cyanide over a long period,
(i) The law firm group further argued that the report does not state the reparative or remedial actions that Bea Mountain Mining Corporation has taken to clean the contaminants which EPA confirmed from its initial investigation to have its source from the Bea Mountain Corporation Tilling storage facility.
EPA stated that following its final determination, it will state the remedial actions to be undertaken and their underly implementation. Unfortunately the Press Release make no mention of any remedial action to be taken by Bea Mountian and the order of implemntation..
EPA does not state or confirm with certainty that the current low level of cyanide noted, aibert “below permissible levels set by EPA”, will not increase at any time in the future, as to result to death of aquatic species, or human beings.
‘Cyanide is imported into Liberia by Bea Mountain and is used as a major chemical in its operations. That Bea Mountain is the only mining compnay operating within the vicinity of Jikandoh that uses cyanide is not in dispute. The fact that there was an incident of pollution in 2016, it is also more than likely than not that it will happen agaion. The May 25, 2022 incident led to the death of aquatic species. Tomorrow, it could lead to the death of people in Jikandoh, including children, women and the elderly. Do Bea Mountain and the Government of Liberia prefer to wait for this eventuality before they take action? The Jikhandoh matter is therefore squarely on the lap of the Government and the Government.’’