Why Did ArcelorMittal’s Ore Concentrator Get Relocated to Yekepa, Nimba County?


The House of Representatives last week voted to investigate a complaint from Grand Bassa County Representative, Thomas Goshua, over alleged violation of the mineral development agreement (MDA) of ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) for constructing its first concentrator “washing plant of iron ores” in Nimba County instead of in Grand Bassa County.

   Representative Goshua, in his complaint, accused AML of shortchanging the MDA, which for him amounts to a severe breach.

   Goshua said, “…The management of the said institution has made a unanimous decision to shortchange the MDA by building the concentrator in Nimba County without seeking any form of approval from this Legislature, lest to mention the courtesy of informing the Grand Bassa Legislative Caucus of how such decision was derived.

   “In view of the forgoing, I humbly implore the conscience of this plenary to invite the management of ArcelorMittal, the Ministry of Mines & Energy and the National Bureau of Concessions to explain how this decision was derived, in gross breach of the aforementioned mineral development agreement.”

   The House’s plenary Thursday, June 1, 2023 generally agreed that the Committees on Mines & Energy Concessions probe ArcelorMittal Liberia for “alleged violation and report within one week”.

   Plenary voted that not just to investigate ArcelorMittal’s management, but also that the Ministry of Mines & Energy and the National Bureau of Concessions be subjected to the investigation.

   Investigation by the Hot Pepper has however shown various pieces of evidence couple with technical, financial and logistical reasons, for which determination was made to have the concentrator built in Nimba.

   First of all, the “washing plant” mentioned in recent discussions around this matter was a tentative development proposal submitted when Mittal Steel initially entered Liberia.

   In the years that followed, a more detailed plan with approvals from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended that the iron ore concentrator plant be located near the mines in Yekepa, Nimba County. This was to ensure that the affluent tailings could be managed near the mine site, rather than exposing the sensitive marine eco-system in Buchanan to the potential impact of a mining operation.

   Feasibility studies that ArcelorMittal Liberia conducted also shows that it is technically efficient and cost-effective to locate the concentrator near the source of the iron ore in Nimba County.

   One must understand that ArcelorMittal Liberia is not just building an iron ore washing plant: In Nimba, what is under construct is a modern nigh technology facility that will be producing a high-grade concentrate, which requires approximately 25 million tons annually of raw ore to produce 15 million tons of concentrated product.

   So ideally, transporting the raw ore to Buchanan would also consume valuable rail capacity that is currently in demand by other users like PHX, which has already paid US$30 million to government for use of the railway.

   Essentially, it is unwise to build a “washing plant” in Buchanan that could cause erosion, contamination and alteration of soil profiles, contamination of local streams and wetlands, and an increase in noise level, dust and emission.

   Had ArcelorMittal agreed to build the concentrator near the port of Buchanan, the remediation of the potential environmental impacts, for example, through water and air pollution and ecological depletion, would have net effects on Buchanan’s environmental system.

   The ore concentrator under construction in Yekepa will provide employment for Liberians from all walks of life who are qualified, and as the company has stated in an earlier statement, the facility’s employment capacity will not be limited to any one county.

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