In April 2016, Diamonds for Peace coordinator in Liberia visited a diamond mining site in Anderson Village on the Bong Mine Road in Margibi County. He talked with a miner and three diamond diggers to understand the way they work and live, and whether they are involved in other activities besides artisanal diamond mining to earn income.
Interaction with Miner
Coordinator: Good day and how are you doing?
Miner: Hello, you are welcome on our ground. What can we do for you?
Coordinator: I am visiting mining sites to acquaint myself with the activities of artisanal diamond workers- how they work and live, whether they do other things to get money, and whether they have passion for the mining field.
Miner: This is my 56th years on the mining field. I started as a diamond boy (digger) in Lofa Bridge in the 1960s. From Lofa Bridge, I have moved to other parts of the country in such of diamonds. At my age now, I don’t have the strength to work a far distance from my house in Kakata that’s why I am here working.
Coordinator: Have you benefited from this way of mining diamonds all these years?
Miner: I have not got much cash yet or rich from mining diamonds but I have built a place for me and my family in Kakata. Through this work I am able to provide food for my family.
Coordinator: How do you distribute income generated from the sales of diamonds to your diggers?
Miner: On this mining ground, we have the boys’ shares (diggers’ shares) and the miner’s share. If we receive $500.00 from the sale of diamonds, for instance, the diggers received $250.00 and I carried $250.00. From my share of the income, I give 20% to the land lord.
Coordinator: Are there some constraints or problems you face on the field?
Miner: There are huge challenges on the field but we just have to try every day to work for survival. The job is actually physical as you can see for yourself. All of the diggers and I have to eat food everyday at this mining site. Unfortunately, many times we digged very large pits but get no positive result (diamonds). We don’t have modern tools to work with – no water machine; so, we use physical strength each day in such of diamonds. We just work with high hope because we don’t have instrument to tell us whether diamonds are here or not.
Coordinator: Do you earn income from other jobs like income from Agriculture related works?
Miner: No. The only work I understand best is mining job. I don’t have interest in other work especially at my present age now. My only regret is that I am not often well to gain physical strength to work as I did in my youthful age. However, I often tried each day to come here and sit by my field boys (digger). Right now, my feet have severe pain so I am just here encouraging the diggers as they work.
Coordinator: Any last word?
Miner: Yes, I want people to know that the mining sector has money but it requires hard work, especially for small scale mining. We are helping the country but through hard works. We need tools, food, and capacity building. Building our capacity will help us to change from the armature way of mining to a better way. So, I am begging organizations, humanitarians, and philanthropists to help us with modern tools and training.
Interaction with Diggers
Coordinator: How long have you been on the mining field?
Digger 1: I was 14 years when I started helping my big brothers at mining sites. Mining has been my job over the years. You can see that I like the job. I am in my 60’s but still working on the field.
Coordinator: Can you show any gains for the long service on the field?
Digger 1: I got some property like houses from this type of mining but during the civil war in Liberia, all were destroyed. Before the 90’s, I educated my children and other family children from mining. Regrettably, I couldn’t help people anymore after the war. I am already old and don’t have strength like the time I was young to work so hard for money. What I am doing now is just to find food to eat until death comes my way.
Coordinator: Besides mining, do you do any different work to get money?
Digger 1: No. Only mining I do now to survive.
Coordinator: Do you have any more things to talk about?
Digger 1: I just want to say thank you for coming here and I pray that your organization will talk with people to help artisanal miners like us.
Coordinator: Could you tell me short story about yourself and the mining field?
Digger 2: I am a family man with wife and children. I have been on this field for some time now. I have not become rich but I get daily bread for my family and me from this job.
Coordinator: Currently, what is your salary?
Digger 2: Here, there is no fixed salary. We the diggers and the miners are working together. All the diggers have 50% of any sales of diamonds and the balance 50% goes to the miner. So, my salary can only be determined by the total cash received from the sales of diamonds.
Coordinator: How then, do you survive when there are no sales of diamonds?
Digger 2: Besides mining, my wife sells small food stuffs in the community that help us survive; besides, I have cassava farm and other crops planted. We eat and sell some to take care of other needs in the family.
Coordinator: It was good talking with you.
Digger 2: Thank you for coming into his bush just to talk with us. I am hopeful that your coming here is a sign of good luck for us at this site.
Coordinator: What is your own story about this type of mining?
Digger 3: I was very young when I joined the mining field. I have moved from mining sites to mining sites in Liberia. I am still working as you can see.
Coordinator: At your age, how do you survive besides mining diamonds?
Digger 3: I can do other things to live. For example, I can do garden work and sell the produce to survive, but the money earned from mining is encouraging. Mining gives me quick money then Garden. It is just that the civil war in Liberia damaged all of my belongings. I shouldn’t have been on the mining field at this age now. I was just to be enjoying my labor from the past, by now.
Coordinator: What is the working relationship among you here?
Digger 3: We are doing great. The miner and diggers understand their roles and common agreement. We have established fact that each of us has a family; therefore, fairness is one of our strong believe to help each other. Without fairness, someone may secretly take diamonds that we have all labor for many days and carry it.
Coordinator: Any final word or message?
Digger 3: I am happy that you came to visit us today but please tell other people about our condition. Only one person among us is below 50 years of age but the rest of us are above age 50’s. We are trying to help ourselves but we need training and financial support to succeed.