By Philip T. Singbah, LINA Bong County Correspondent
Monrovia, November 11 (LINA) – Government lead agency on the Inter-Ministerial Crisis Management Team working to resolve recent pollution at MNG Gold in Bong County has dismissed claims that the incident resulted into several persons getting sick.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Deputy Executive Director, Urias Goll, said medical reports from three hospitals, including Phebe, JFK Medical Hospital and a MNG Gold-run clinic in Kokoya, confirmed that there is no direct correlation of cyanide to the illnesses reported by the people.
« We are pleased to report to you that the 34 persons that allegedly came into contact with the contaminated water were treated and medical reports from Phebe Hospital, MNG Clinic and JFK Medical Hospital confirmed that there is no direct correlation of cyanide to the illnesses reported by the people. » Mr. Goll said.
He disclosed that efforts have been made to restore the livelihood of the people of Sayewheh town, the community affected by uncontrollable discharged of slurry containing cyanide from the MNG Gold’s dam in September this year.
According to him, repair works are ongoing on damages done to the dam, which failure resulted into spillage of cyanide-containing effluent in the environment.
On Wednesday, September 27, a section of the geo-membrane layer of the tailing storage dam at the MNG Gold mines in Kokoya Bong County ruptured and resulted into uncontrollable discharge of slurry containing cyanide from the dam into the Sien Creek.
The discharged led to the contamination of ground and surface waters, including hand pumps and the Sien Creek.
The situation also disrupted farming activities in some parts of Sayewheh Town and along the affected creek, posing potential health hazard to the community and its inhabitants.
Following the incident, all hand pumps were temporarily closed while a ban was placed on farming and artisanal mining.
Schools were also closed while thirty community members who reportedly came in contact with the chemical were referred to Phebe for medical check-up.
But, Mr. Goll said Government Inter-Ministerial Crisis Management Team (CMT) was set-up to probe the matter as well as work with MNG Gold’s management to ensure that the situation is brought under control and relevant actions taken to avert reoccurrence.
He disclosed that surface and ground water, which previously contained traces of free cyanide, are now free of any concentration of cyanide.
Goll noted that community members are now allowed to use the hand pumps and resume normal activities including farming.
The EPA, last week disclosed that MNG Gold’s operations would remain closed until the environmental agency can order it to resume operations.
The EPA shut down the MNG Gold plant immediately following the rupture of the section of the geo-membrane of the Tailing Storage Facility (TSF) in Kokoya, Bong County on September 24.
Providing an update on progress made since the setting up of the crisis management team, Mr. Goll disclosed that technicians, who visited the site between October 5 and 7, discovered that there is no free cyanide detected in the nearby Sien Creek which had a concentration level of 0.310ppm during the first trip.
« The technicians also discovered that all of the six hand pumps were assessed with no indication of cyanide concentration thus, no impact to groundwater at the moment, » he added.
Goll said compared to the previous assessment, the free cyanide levels have decreased by 44 percent from 0.966ppm to 0.540ppm within the TSF.
« It can be acceptable considering the limit is 50 mg/L in TSF according to International Cyanide Management Code, » the EPA Executive Deputy Director said.
He also disclosed that the company has provided food items, including 300 bags of rice, four cartoons of chicken, three cartons of beef and four poly tanks to supply clean and safe water to the community for the month of October.
Goll added that as part of temporary measures to remedy the crisis, the EPA has demanded that MNG Gold dewater the TSF that holds about 300,000 cubic meters of water under strict compliance with the IFC standards and the water Quality Guideline of Liberia.
This is the second chemical spill in Kokoyah Statutory District since MNG Gold commenced operations in the district.
In 2016, a truck carrying container containing Carbon hydroxide to MNG camp Kokoyah broke down on a hill along the road causing a spill from the container to a stream in a nearby village.
The situation led to villagers in the affected areas to abandon their farming activities to sit in the village for several days for fear of coming in contact with the chemical.
A team comprising members from the company and the Environment Protection Agency took several days to spry the affected areas as part of efforts to restoring the hope of the residents.