Residents of Hamilton village, in the Western Rural District, have bemoaned persistent sand mining in their community, which could cause erosion as the rains approach.
The community known for sand mining activities; everyday dozens of huge trucks storm the village for sand and stone, with no effort being put in place to control the illegal activity. With little paid to community people, trucks transport sand from the beaches on a daily basis, employing local youth as labourers.
Headman of Hamilton, Morlai Conteh, says the community benefits immensely from the mining activity despite its hazardous effect to the community. He said many youths who were unemployed in the community now have something to do. “We do take some amount of money from trucks taking sands here. Almost all the youths in this village do work as labourers, thus helping themselves and their families,” he said.
In 2012, Statistics Sierra Leone recommended that construction companies – Companie’ Schaline D’Enterprise (CSE) and China Railway Seventy Group – involved in sand use activities should be paying compensation to host communities as their actions have lasting impact not only on the land but also the livelihood of host communities.
But the headman says the companies did not heed to the directive by Statistic Sierra Leone, adding that although CSE collects all their raw materials from his community the Senegalese does not give back to the community.
He says they have used proceeds from the little gate-taking from the beach to construct a bridge that links the village with Adonkia, Lakkah, Ogu Farm and Goderich communities.
“I have built public toilet, water taps at eco-centre, fenced the community centre and renovate the roof,” he said.
The headman says his community could be exposed to other environmental hazards as a result blasting of stones in the outskirt of the village by CSE. Conteh claims many homes in the community, including the church and mosque, have been left cracked as a result stone blasting.
In a bid to prevent rapid environmental degradation due to sand mining, the headman says sand could now be taken from the beach twice a month.
However, his statement was contradicted by an elderly man, Mohamed Carew, who told this reporter that since the imposed limit on transportation of sand from Hamilton, vehicles now come to the village at night to buy sand that had already been piled by local youths in the community. He suggested that the community should put a moratorium on sand mining for at least five years to allow sufficient sand to gather on the beach.
“This village was two miles away from the beach, now there is no difference [between the village and the beach]. I came here when I was 20, now I am 86. If this government fails to control sand mining, the only option is to relocate the village. You see those rocks (pointing in the direction) they were never visible,” he said in mournful tune.
Carew reveals that they have protested against incessant sand mining in the community over the years, adding with a sense of resignation that things remain unchangeable.
A group of fishermen locally known as ‘Allein’, who settle along the coast, told Concord Times that they are greatly disturbed by sand mining activity. The habour master, Mustapha Conteh, maintains they are experiencing scarcity in the fishing sector as a result of sand mining activity.