Vaanii Kiazolu, Community Relations Manager of ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML)
ArcelorMittal Liberia’s mining operation is confronted with an ongoing challenge—the relentless theft of rail materials, which has caused considerable financial losses and disruptions to the company’s operation.
The story of ArcelorMittal Liberia’s struggle against this menace began with the discovery of the vast iron ore deposits in Liberia. With the company’s investments, the once-remote area was transformed into a hub of mining and transportation—thanks to the rail network that crisscrossed Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba counties.
This rail, however, has proved to be a tempting target for opportunistic thieves who regularly make away with essential rail materials, often leading to derailments.
Over the years, the company invested heavily in installing and maintaining the rail infrastructure, only to see its rail materials stolen repeatedly.
It is not just about the financial loss, but also about the disruption it causes to both the local and international supply chains, impacting the livelihood of the communities along the rail lines.
To combat this on-going issue, Vaanii Kiazolu, Community Relations Manager of ArcelorMittal Liberia, has been passionately working with local communities to bridge the gap between ArcelorMittal Liberia and the local communities, fostering a spirit of cooperation and protection for the company.
Vaanii recently spoke with a team of reporters and encouraged the citizens living along the rail lines to join hands in protecting the rail materials and, in turn, safeguard the company’s investment.
He emphasized that this is important, not only for the company but for the future investment in Liberia as a whole. His vision was to create a sense of ownership among the local communities, making them the protectors of the rails.
Kiazolu said, “From Bassa to Bong, and Nimba, we just want to talk to our people to make sure that they give the necessary support in their own way to make safeguard the company’s assets.”
He recognized one of the biggest challenges as the on-going theft of rail materials, as the company works to rehabilitate the rail network.
“So we also want to warn that if you continue to remove the rail materials and these derailments continue to take place it also affects the economy, not just locally but nationally,” he continued, highlighting the far-reaching consequences of rail material theft.
“It affects our production capacity. Every day the rail is closed there is a huge amount that is lost due to that derailment,” Vaanii explained, underlining the critical role the rail plays in the company’s operation.
He concluded by saying, “So we just want to encourage our people that, look at this rail today, if this company is not here… I can tell anybody now that AML is the biggest investor in Liberia and has the biggest workforce, beside the government, compared to any other corporation or company in this country. So we just want to encourage you that the more we all protect the assets and protect the business as a people, the more we will benefit.”
Under AML’s leadership, community engagement initiatives along the rail will now seek to foster stronger partnerships with residents to provide education about the significance of the rail infrastructure and how its theft affect their own lives.
Together with ArcelorMittal Liberia, the residents are expected to establish community watch groups to deter thieves and ensure the security of the rail network.
As time goes by, the local communities are expected to take pride in being the guardians of the rails. Incidents of rail material theft could decrease significantly, and the rail network will then become more reliable.
ArcelorMittal Liberia’s investment would then become safer than ever, and the local communities will begin to see the benefits of a strong and thriving partnership through jobs and income.
The story of ArcelorMittal Liberia’s struggle against rail material theft serves as an inspiring example of how a company, through community engagement and cooperation, can overcome the challenges posed by theft and safeguard its investments for the wellbeing of all stakeholders.