Written by Diamonds for Peace Liberia staff
Back ground of the cooperative
In 2008 a cooperative with the name, Smith Town Mineral Multipurpose Cooperative Society, was established under the leadership of a prominent female resident of the community. The cooperative was established through the influence of a Russian mining company called Texas International Group (TIG); TIG is a company with interest in maximizing profits through mining. The intervention of a foreign company into mining activities with artisanal miners provided a great deal of inspiration to the establishment of the cooperative. The miners in the cooperative partnered with TIG and worked together for two years.
The cooperative received training from the Cooperative Development Agency (CDA), the government arm responsible for the formation of cooperatives across the country and was certified to operate as a full fledge cooperative in Liberia. However, since its establishment the only known activity or perhaps success is their partnership with the TIG company. The cooperative worked in partnership with this company in order to get support to run their mining activities giving that the search for support amongst artisanal diamond miners is a major issue. The majority of artisanal miners cannot afford the funds to independently run their mining projects so they usually go in search of someone who can provide that kind of support.
The cooperative in Partnership with TIG
The TIG company donated cash amount of USD$500 each to some members of the cooperative; the cash donation was intended to facilitate the validation of the miners’ ownership of mining claims by the renewal of their mining licenses. The company then brought in several heavy duty machines and employed the services of heavy duty machine operators, securities, diggers etc. Employed diggers were put on monthly salaries of USD$150; other employees were also placed on different salary structures based on the kind of services they rendered to the company. The company worked one at a time on the miners’ fields through the cooperative and shared profits with individual miners on a 70% – 30% basis (Company 70% and miner 30%).
Departure of the company
After two years of operation the partnership between TIG and the cooperative broke up; from my assessment, the fall out is linked to two reasons;1) the cooperative leaders and some members were dissatisfied over the manner in which their diamonds were bought by the company; they said their diamonds were not being bought fairly. 2) Some miners say the company left because the leadership of the cooperative was not well structured; it was being run undemocratically by few individuals. Whatever the case may be, the company left and the cooperative became dormant as the result.
The issue of sustaining outsiders’ initiated projects in rural communities is a serious challenge; many projects which establishment were either initiated or influenced by NGOs or other groups other than the community people themselves, shortly came to an end after the departure of the group that initiated them. I think it is because people are more used to been dependent than independent. TIG was not a humanitarian organization; however, they provided assistance to the miners in a win-win situation. The members of the cooperative tasted the benefits of working together in a cooperative and should have capitalized on the little experience they got to sustain the operation of the cooperative for more improved experience and benefits in the future. It is a better idea for a community to lead the way in the initiation of projects that will benefit them; they could be guided in the process by an outside group’s intervention but should see the initiative as their own. In this way, they will take ownership of the initiative and make it sustainable.
Front Photo:Cover page picture of past annual activities report of the cooperative(Diamonds for Peace)