House Passes ArcelorMittal’s Mining Development Agreement

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The first stage of renewing ArcelorMittal’s Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) with the Government of Liberia (GOL) has been sealed by the House of Representatives, even though the deal was greeted by mixed reaction from citizens mainly residing in concession areas: Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa counties, with some residents petitioning their lawmakers not to renew the deal due to the company’s alleged reneging on its responsibilities over the years.

   The House of Representatives on Thursday, December 16, 2021 passed the agreement and forwarded it to the Liberian Senate for concurrence. The motion to pass the bill was made by Montserrado County’s district #16 Representative, Dixon Seboe, and 29 lawmakers voted for, 4 against and 2 abstained.

   The decision to file a motion for the passage of the agreement by Representative Seboe was based on the report presented by the House’s Joint Committee on Investment & Concessions, Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning, Judiciary and Land, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources & Environment.

   While the debate was being heightened by individuals with either vested interest in booting ArcelorMittal out or keeping them in Liberia, stakeholders of the concession areas were engaged with the company more constructively as it relates to the residents’ reaction over their operation over the years and their demand before they can be allowed further stay in the area.

   Through the legislative caucuses of Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa counties, ArcelorMittal Liberia faced a number of questions, requests and demands from the residents of the three counties in which they operate.

   Documents accessed by the Hot Pepper revealed that the stakeholders of the three counties laid the fundamental issues for the steel giant to address and commit itself to before their lawmakers can sign any document for the extension of the company’s operation in Liberia.

   For Bong County, the stakeholders requested that AML rehabilitates the service road (KM 91—KM 158), recondition some community roads around GHQ and AML Rail Line; provide job opportunities for affected communities; there be a representation of someone who originates from the county on any of the two boards of ArcelorMittal; and take into consideration the constant derailment that puts community dwellers at risks along the rail.

   Similarly, Grand Bassa County stakeholders emphasized that Bassa citizens are not benefitting from AML advanced studies scholarship program, and that the company should set up a vocational training center (VTC) at the GBCC to model it like the AML-VTC in Yekepa; prioritize the employment of the people of Grand Bassa and as well accept recommendations for employment from the leadership of the county; institute a succession plan and employment of Liberians in top managerial positions, including the top 3 most senior posts; provide housing for low-level employees, and not containers; provide electricity to Buchanan; give government officials access to the concession area; construct a modern and equipped health center in the county; provide at least 15 international scholarships and advanced training opportunities to residents of the county; pave the road from concession to Buchanan via Robert Street; adhere to local content policy; halt the demolition of houses in the loop; employ all its security and stop outsourcing its security services; disburse the balance US$2 million for affected communities; consider funding GBCC bridge construction with Bassa’s CSDF; and compensate the county for not locating the concentrator.

   Also, Nimba County stakeholders requested that ArcelorMittal Liberia allot 25 percent of enrollment slots to youths from affected communities to access training at the VTC, while setting aside 25 percent of annual benefits of the advanced scholarship for qualified youths from 5km within the affected communities and along the rail; provide support to schools in addition to what is given to NCCC, including the provision of instructional and learning materials; recruit five persons from each affected community and train them; allocate 30 percent of all unskilled and semi-skilled jobs in the Yekepa concession to people from the affected communities while giving opportunities to qualified persons for skilled jobs; inform citizens on the positive and negative effects of its planned Washing Plant; all complaints/grievances coming out of the Tokadeh, TMF and Gangra be resolved before the commencement of the new agreement; pay share of the SDF directly to the communities; rehabilitate all feeder roads within the twelve mine-affected communities before the next rainy season; reactivate the Cultural Reference groups; construct, maintain and operate health facilities in the concession area at the level of a referral hospital; rebuild Bonia Public School and restore safe-drinking water; re-do the 500 meters demarcation around the Yueliton Mountain; renovate buildings constructed by LAMCO in  areas A, J, B, S1&2; consider purchasing locally made goods produced by Liberians for its operation; provide street lights in the communities; mitigate sediment damage to farm and water sources outside the 500-meter buffer of Gangra, Bonlah and Bolo towns; and reopen ArcelorMittal Monrovia Office.

   While ArcelorMittal has met up with some of its obligations, the company has committed itself to seriously addressing issues raised by the people. In separate letters to the chairpersons of the legislative caucuses of Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa counties, the company presented its response to the issues and grievances that the residents of the concession areas raised about their operation.

   According to AML, the individual responses and accompanying actions are aimed at fostering stronger relations with all stakeholders, promising to remain a good corporate citizen.

   It can be recalled that most international companies fled the country during the many years of civil crisis and Liberians were left with disintegrated infrastructure and without employment when political stability was restored to the nation in 2003. The new Liberian government, led by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, was intent on reviving industry in the country and providing opportunities to the Liberian people. However, it was clear that Liberia would need large businesses to demonstrate belief in the viability of investment in the country in order to promote future economic growth.

   In 2005, ArcelorMittal Liberia stepped in the shoe of being the first company to venture business exploration in Liberia and to signal to the outside world that Liberia was safe for doing business. The company signed the first Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) to allow it to begin mining operations in Yekepa, Nimba County, and Buchanan, Grand Bassa County concessions.    While the public awaits the Liberian Senate to either concur or reject the agreement, ArcelorMittal is committing its services to the terms and conditions of the stakeholders of the concession areas, with the assurance of expanding its activities and employing over 3,000 more Liberians.

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