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Over Alleged water blockage London Mining Undermine Agriculture in Lunsar

It looks like an idyllic place with birds’ swirling in the air and children laughing and playing as they run pass in a typical African setting, but their life is not all that serene. Their swamps and rice farm have been taken over by flood waters.
Manonkoh village is not in the concession area of London Mining but situated after Maforkie in the Marampa Masimbra chiefdom of Port Loko district, north of Sierra Leone some three miles from Lunsar town. Its people are best known for high production of rice and other agricultural products. But in 2011 they started experiencing flood in their swamps as a result of an alleged blockage of their water channels by London Mining Company.
London mining company is a British owned company that secured their mining rights in December 2005 and signed their land lease agreement in September 2006 for the exploration of Iron Ore at the Marampa deposits which was first discovered in 1926 by the then Sierra Leone Development Company (Delco).
“Our swamps and rice farms of 350 hectares have been flooded as a result of blockage of the water channel that flows right into the Rokel River by London Mining Company. Since we told them last year, they have not taken any serious action to address the problem. It only rains for one night and our swamps continue to swell with flood waters preventing us from doing any farming. 350 hectares of rice have become rotten and destroyed because of the high level of water caused as a result of blockage by London Mining Company.
Town chief of Manonkoh Mohamed Fofanah lamented, about their unfortunate situation in an exclusive interview to this press at his village some 77 miles from Freetown.
Pa Santigie Kanu an elderly man of Maforkie village said before now they used to farm alone but the river where according to him, they always have high yields has since last year started swelling as a result of flooding.
“Last year the flooding prevented us from using the main road that leads to Lunsar town. Now our fear is that, it only has to rain one night for the water level to shoot up very high.
We are afraid not to wake up one day and see water all over our village. There are no places to farm because our lives are threatened, the only job we know here is farming,” the old man lamented.
One time master farmer David Kargbo (not his real name) of Lunsar said, in the 70thies they used to have what he referred to as bumper harvest not until the commencement of Iron Ore exploration by London Mining, when farmers were prevented from owning land.
This according to David, have reduced food productivity in their chiefdom leaving them to compete for the very small portion of remaining land for agricultural purposes. He appealed to government and minister of agriculture to proportionally and evenly distribute their land.
London Mining has reacted to the alleged blockage that resulted in the flooding at Manonkoh that destroyed 350 hectares of rice farm, saying that they are not responsible for the flooding at Manonkoh and its environs.
When this reporter visited the mining sites along the said river bank it was proved that indeed, the company did block the river channel that flows from Manonkoh and empties into the Rokel River there by preventing the flow of water from the swamps.
It was also proven that the water channel that was built by then Delco for speedy flow of excess water cannot work any longer. The said water channel according to chief Fofanah of Manonkoh was very useful especially when the water level was high, it used to reduce the water and empty into the river but when it is blocked, the water level continues to rise especially when it rains, he pointed out.
At London Mining plant sites it was noticed that the company blocked the water that flows from neighboring villages into the Rokel River with red tailings from the mines for the purpose of using the banked water to wash their mined Ore dust.
The tailings from mining site was deposited into the water way which empties into Rokel River thereby causing the water to have bad odor, suppressing it from proper passage while preventing it to run thus leading it to be in a static position resulting to flooding at Manonkoh village and its environs.
Not only that London Mining have blocked the flow of water that empty into Rokel River but also, have polluted the said area with human waste, plastic wastes and other substances believed not to be good for human being.
It could be recalled that London Mining Company started mining without acquiring an Environmental Impact Assessment license which prompted the Environmental Protection Agency in November 2010, to stop them from all mining operation for what they referred to as violation of the country’s environmental laws.
Chairman Federation of Marampa Farmers Association said as an Association they are worried over the pace at which the company is expanding its operations making no absolute provision for the development of agriculture in their chiefdom.
Mr. Santigie Kabia said if stringent measures are not put in place to address the problem of competition over land between multinational mining companies and farmers, they will in the near future be faced with food shortage and high prices of agricultural products.
By Mohamed Kabba

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