While Canada Signs US$200 Million AML Contract: Struggling Liberia Rejects US$1 Billion Agreement

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The action of the House of Representatives to return the ArcelorMittal third mineral development agreement (MDA) with alleged political undertone is being described by many observers as some of the reasons why Liberia is still backward in terms of infrastructure and human resource development.

   The Speaker of the House, Dr. Bhofal Chambers, has since come under fierce criticism for the House’s decision but, without remorse for his action, allegedly engages in double dipping with High Power Exploration (HPX), reportedly receiving US$500,000 from the Guinean-based company for legislative engagement.

   While the AML agreement clearly indicates the investment amount, the Liberian public is blindfolded about HPX, its operations and what it brings to the table. With all these dangling circumstances, it is being reported that the House, headed and aided by Speaker Chambers, has secretly signed a rail and port usage agreement with HPX without any scrutiny or public input.

   What appears glaring is that the lawmakers are more interested in the kickbacks these concessionaires provide to them than the overall benefit the contracts come with, evident by the fact that the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah, recently disclosed that, in addition to the benefits of the AML contract, the company has agreed to provide US$10 million annually towards stabilizing electricity in the country, as well as providing yearly budgetary support to the national coffers.

Members of the House of Representatives

   Among the recommendations proffered by the House in the AML ratification is that a future renegotiation of the concession, other existing concessions and new concessions should consider the full application of all relevant laws, including the act creating the WASH Commission and the Land Rights Law, but one is left to wonder whether Speaker Chambers and clique passed the HPX through the formality before entering in an agreement with them.

   While a struggling country like Liberia is refusing a US$1 billion contract for alleged legislative engagement fees, a developed country, Canada, is happily signing a CAD$205 million investment agreement with ArcelorMittal Mining Canada (AMMC) in its Port-Cartier pellet plant.

    The AML investment, in which the Quebec government will contribute through an electricity rebate of up to CAD$80 million, will enable the Port-Cartier plant to become one of the world’s largest producers of DRI pellets, the raw material feedstock for iron-making in a DRI furnace. The project includes the implementation of a flotation system that will enable a significant reduction of silica in the iron ore pellets, facilitating the production of a very high-quality pellet.

   However, while AML strives to promote the investment climate of Liberia and expose its minerals to the world, a handful of lawmakers with close proximity to Speaker Chambers are bent on stalling Liberia’s development process and dragging the George Weah administration into further economic hardship, as they may be unable to provide alternatives if ArcelorMittal chooses to pull out of the country.

   According to information, the AML agreement with Canada provides approximately 250 jobs during the construction phase of the project in Port-Cartier, which is scheduled to begin mid-2023 and completed before the end of 2025. This number is so minute to the 2,000 jobs expected to be created by the AML third MDA in Liberia, yet the lawmakers are making “poor” excuses for not passing the deal, while their own staffers have cried over the years for better wages, but to no avail.

   If passed, the new AML agreement will make the concession the biggest iron ore investment in West Africa. While the Canadians are happy for a contract that will see them become one of the biggest direct reduction pellet producers in the world, Liberia is rejecting a deal that puts them far ahead of the West African sub-region in terms of iron ore investment. 

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