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Challenges Artisanal Diamond Workers Face in Working Together

Many persons in Liberia’s western mining region find their living through artisanal diamond mining; some work as miners and many of them as diggers. Many rely solely on diamond mining for survival.

Gondor Town is a diamond mining community in the western region of Grand Cape Mount County; one of the largest diamond mining communities in the Keita mining agency. Some 3,000 people inhabit this little town, most of whom are diamond workers and small business people. Diamonds were first discovered in this town in the early 1960s. Since its discovery, people have been mining and producing diamonds in large quantities and with high values. But the issue is that they still languish in poverty, despite the amount of diamonds that are extracted from their town. Various issues include poor sanitation, bad roads and poor health care. In an attempt to solve some of these problems, they are attempting local bridge repairs through the help of their representative in the National Legislature. Being provided from the National Legislature are

power saw and fuel. The community provides the labor while feeding their own during the repairs.

One of the Bridges which has been repaired by the community

One of the ways put forth to improve the community’s economic and social status and finally glean from their mining, is to form a cooperative. The community realized that working individually affords them nothing but joining together will ensure benefits of their labor are dispersed to all who have labored. Three years ago the community leaders were motivated through the influence of one of their colleagues to form a multi-purpose cooperative with the name “Gondor Town Gold and Diamond Mining Multipurpose Cooperative Society and Mineral Brokers”. The process has begun and has been going well. Recently, leaders participated in the pre-cooperative training and were given a pre-cooperative status permit to operate for the period of six months.

During the six month period they set up their office with a visible signboard. They had been working to open a bank account when the association suffered setback resulting from financial malpractice and insincerity of one of their colleagues who influenced the cooperative formation in the first place. The cooperative had received cash and materials (shovels, jigs, machines, etc.) support and he solely pocketed the cash and diverted the materials to his personal interest. This situation led to the collapse of the cooperative.

Despite this experience, many leaders still believe working in a cooperative is the way out of their many years of fruitless individual efforts. There still is, however, fear and insecurity

lurking in the beliefs of some members. Those who are willing to take a chance have again organized another cooperative with a membership of 42 licensed and non-licensed miners. However, the association has been dormant since its establishment. Sources say the reasons are attributed to fear of what happened in the past, ineffective leadership, and the lack of technical and financial support.

The people in Gondor Town have the desire to work together; they have tried in the past and are still trying to solve some of their many problems as a community. I think what they need now is technical support personnel and the institution of a democratic form of governance that will guaranteed their hope in a cooperative.

 

Abandoned office of the Gondor Gold and Diamond Mining Multipurpose Cooperative Society

This office has been abandoned since the demise of the Multipurpose Gold and Diamond Mining Cooperative Society. However, plans are underway to revamp the office following the establishment of another mining cooperative to replace the first attempted cooperative.