A partnership between Golden Agri Resources (GAR) (through Golden Veroleum, a subsidiary of the New York-based Verdant Fund LP) and the Government of Liberia was announced in August 2010. The concession is located in Sinoe County and is for 220,000 ha, with an additional 40,000 ha for small holder (out-grower) plantations. GAR is the world’s second-largest palm-oil plantation company, with a total planted area of 464,600 ha in Indonesia. The terms of the contract, which are valid for 65 years (with an option to extend an additional 33) are for palm oil plantations, out-grower schemes, and the construction of a new port, but is written in such a way that do not provide for the protection of human rights or adherence to RSPO commitments. In October 2012 Green Advocates, an NGO, filed a case against the company for non-compliance with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) for a variety of grievances on behalf of communities in Sinoe County (including polluting water, bulldozing ancestral graves, and forced relocation). According to the Forest People’s Programme they have gathered evidence on places where crops were destroyed, shrines were desecrated, villages uprooted and burial grounds and graves sites destroyed, as well as several sites where wetlands including rivers, marshlands, swamps, streams and creeks have been dammed or diverted and polluted. The Forest Trust (TFT) conducted an assessment in January of 2013, found merit in the complaints, and halted development activity until terms that were agreed upon by the company, the auditor (TFT), and NGOs involved had reached certain benchmarks.
However, the company continued its rapid expansion during the Ebola crisis of 2014. Global witness reported that GVL obtained the signature of four land-concession agreements during this national sanitary crisis which prevented a lot of people to assist to those meetings and to express their opinion. Blogbo people’s sacred sites were profaned, the Palotro Hill and the Sleni river. A mill for processing the palm oil was constructed on the hill, risking the contamination of river’s water. By July 2016 and following GVL request, the Liberian’s forestry authority proposed to allow the sale of the timber logged from the concessions. This potential new regulation was feared to incentivize further deforestation. It finally was not concretized thanks to joint efforts between international and national NGOs such as the Sustainable Development Institute and the Rainforest Rescue. Yet Liberian rainforest remains under threat by the continuous plantations’ expansion and GVL’s and other palm oil companies’ greediness to sell the logged timber.