FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

Liberia: 'Access to Healthcare a Fundamental Human Right', Arcelormittal Reacts to Report

" The NBC visited our concession area in Buchanan and expressed satisfaction with the pace and progress of our operations. Both NBC and ArcelorMittal are strengthening collaboration in many areas. ArcelorMittal is committed to supporting the NBC in the execution of its mandate". Marcus Wleh, Head of Government Affairs

Encroachment on the Blay Community by constructing a sedimentation dam outside of Arcelor mittal concessional area without consultation to the community people, and soon to build a washing plant in the same locale.

The sedimentation dam is certainly within the concession. There has been no encroachment on the Blay (Blei) community, furthermore the sedimentation dam is not in Blay (Blei) community. A washing plant will also not be built outside of the concession.

Our discussions are with the Gba community forest management body for compensation for land-take inside that community forest, which falls within the concession.

We respect and uphold the mineral development agreement signed with the government of Liberia as well as our communities in and near our concession area. We will continue to work in partnership with these communities.

Just to note, prior to beginning work in any area, sensitization and consultation exercises are undertaken within the affected communities. In the case of PHASE 2 OPERATIONS three rounds of consultations with the community over a two year period under the ESIA (environmental social impact assessment) were done by URS and a social consultant, Kate Blacklock. As we transition from Phase I to Phase II, consultation and sensitization have begun with affected communities such as Zolowee, Sehyigeh, and Makinto. The process includes distribution of project booklets, radio broadcasts (currently we've started a 1 hour radio program on Radio Nimba and Radio Kergamahn) to explain and discuss Phase II, and community meetings.

Desecrating their community land and destroying cash crops in the Blay community Forest with no incentives, and depriving the citizens of their mining claims.

Gba community forest is the one next to the mine not Blay (Blei). Blei community forest is located at the southwestern tip of the ENNR. Blay (Blei) community forest is inside the concession; however, it has not been affected by the Company's operation. Neither the mine nor the sedimentation dam is anywhere near Blei CF.

We have compensated for those crops destroyed by the construction of the north sedimentation dam.

Resettlement packages are provided to all affected farmers with all information open and transparent, through meetings and engagements with the farmers. The assessments, valuation and payment process is also equally open and transparent.

The resettlement process is conducted by the Community Liaison team in a transparent manner, contacting affected households, assessing losses, valuation of the losses according to rates set by the Government of Liberia and payment. The entitlement includes a livelihood restoration package in which affected persons can choose to further their agricultural livelihood or undertake skills training and small business development if they so wish. The Resettlement Plan is both World Bank Policy on Involuntary Resettlement and International Finance Corporation Principles and Guidelines on Social impact mitigation compliant. All processes are monitored and validated by the independent Mine Resettlement Coordination Committee of local Government officials. Alternative land is determined using the traditional land allocation system through a Land Access Committee to agree new land distribution and to obtain security of tenure through a new Tribal Land Certificate. The livelihoods program includes an adult literacy package, life skills and small enterprise management training, agricultural skills for intensification of agriculture, diversification as well as improved processing and marketing. The program contains a special component to facilitate affected persons to complete their high school certificate prior to undertaking skills training as this is the best passage to learning and employment success.

Arcelor Mittal alleged failure to transform the status of hundreds of employees from mere casual and contractual workers to full fledged gainful employees with the due benefits.

Phase I activities in Liberia have dealt largely with the construction of infrastructure. For this we relied on large international contractors who have the necessary expertise to build railroads, ports, etc. In our agreements with them we asked that they utilized local casual labor as much as possible and bring in expatriates only where absolutely necessary to assist in decreasing Liberia's large unemployment rate. Our intentions were and still are that the contractor employees that are skilled or trained on this project be absorbed into the ArcelorMittal operational team.

As we now transition to Phase II, there is a present drive to upgrade 130+ daily hires to full employment status. The process should be completed by the end of July and will substantially reduce the daily hire situation if not eradicate it.

Regarding contractors' benefits majority of our major contractors' employees are covered by National Social Security (death, disability coverage, pension) and they also have medical incentives. As of date, ArcelorMittal employs about 321 people in Yekepa in various departments including mining, township (estate), transport, schools, hospitals, community relations.

Eighty percent of the mine workers employed with the mining contractor is locally employed.

The pollution of streams and rivers in the Blay Community Forest by the dumping of waste materials by ArcelorMittal.

Rivers around the project have suffered from an influx of sediment that has run off the mine. We are currently spending over 3 million dollars on sediment control construction activities throughout the affected area, including the North Sediment Dam.Creeks around the project have suffered from an influx of sediment that has run off the mine. The company is not dumping waste material into streams and rivers. Those that have been affected by sediment damage are being compensated as per AML's grievance redress mechanism. Pollution is not acceptable and ArcelorMittal endeavors to prevent it from happening. Where in the past our contractors have caused pollution we have cleaned it up and paid, and are in the process of paying, compensation to affected people. This has been done in consultation with the EPA and according to ArcelorMittal's grievance redress system.

Deforestation and degradation are inevitable parts of the land disturbance caused by mining. We will restore all of the sites as soon as we finish working on them. We have already issued a number of community contracts every year for the last four years, to people from Gbapa and Zolowee, to undertake revegetation work. We are also running our Biodiversity Conservation Programme (BCP) to compensate for these problems. That is why we are supporting the Gba Community Forest Management Body.

We recognize that all creeks and rivers are someone's drinking water supply; therefore we aim to have no sediment escape from the mine. All of our operations are required to abide by World Bank guidelines for discharge water quality. Sedimentation dams are installed to trap silt and ensure that the water is clean at the point of discharge from the site. Our environmental staff monitors water quality regularly in addition to pollution and noise; air quality; erosion and sedimentation; clearance and restoration of vegetation; disposal of waste; water intake; waste water discharge; sewage treatment; the transport of fuel, oil and other hazardous materials; storage, dispensing and waste management; medical waste disposal; and marine pollution including ballast water management.

Alleged failure by Arcelor Mittal to rehabilitate structures left behind by Lamco, constructing prefabricated houses and containers for employees and company still school buildings as offices.

It is important to restate that no ArcelorMittal employees live in prefabricated houses or containers. The portable modular housing units is for contractors only, and it is not unique to Liberia, but a standard practice used by mining sites worldwide. These Modular buildings are an ideal solution in remote or rural areas for transient engineers, managers and short term contractors. Most units are fully furnished, with AC, a kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom and more. Each unit has all of the comforts of a regular home. These prefabricated modular buildings are dust free, well insulated termite resistant, fire retardant and waterproof.

In Phase II remaining housing damages during the war will be renovated as we increase the workforce. In Phase I, the company spent over $800 million dollars for major infrastructure developments to get the project underway. That included rebuilding of the rail lines, renovation of housing structures in the concession, rebuilding of the Port, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. Phase II has a budget of $1.5 billion dollars which will go toward the renovation and building of more housing units for employees and other needed infrastructure. ArcelorMittal is here for the long haul, and our employees are one our top priorities.

Company's failure to abide by its community social responsibilities as enshrined in the memorandum of understanding with government to benefit the communities in which it is operating...such as clinics, schools, safe drinking waters among others. For these and many others, the citizens have decided to stage a protest strike action but were stopped by Superintendent Christina Darkadu of Nimba County.

Access to healthcare is a fundamental human right, but crumbling infrastructure has left most areas in Liberia without adequate healthcare facilities. Without such facilities our employees, their families and the broader community face illness and death from many preventable diseases. We are committed to ensuring the health of employees, contractors and their families, both on and off the job. It is also imperative we have a healthy and productive workforce.

We have made significant investment in the development of health facilities in our areas of operation. These include upgrading running hospitals in Buchanan and Yekepa, which have 62 and 35 beds, respectively, and a medical clinic in Green Hill Quarry, Bong County.

Through these facilities, we provide free, 24-hours healthcare to employees and their dependents, and subsidized healthcare to local community members. In 2012, ArcelorMittal's Yekepa and Buchanan hospitals treated 21,884 patients:

ArcelorMittal operates 4 schools in Yekepa with a total of 1,335 students. The Vocational Training Institute is scheduled for a September opening.

We believe it is our corporate responsibility to assist in providing healthcare, schools, and other assistance to communities around our concession; therefore we go above and beyond our MDA requirement by building schools, hand pumps, latrines, markets and providing the best health care available in regions where there is none, at a considerable expense to the company.

During 2012, we constructed 47 hand pumps and built seven market halls in Bong, Bassa and Nimba Counties and built and renovated 2 schools in Nimba, at Zolowee and Makinto. We constructed a clinic at Gpapa.

Citizens were told not to go on their farms by the company?

They were told to removed from their land forcefully by the company?

A resettlement package was announced to all affected farmers and all information has been open and transparent through our meetings and other engagements with the farmers. Our assessments, valuation and payment process has also been equally open and transparent. Furthermore, we have announced the area that will be acquired. No one has to leave until they are fully paid.

The Community Liaison team have a transparent process for contacting affected households, assessing losses, valuation of the losses according to rates set by the Government of Liberia and payment. The entitlement includes a livelihood restoration package in which affected persons can choose to further their agricultural livelihood or undertake skills training and small business development if they so wish. The Resettlement Plan is both World Bank Policy on Involuntary Resettlement and International Finance Corporation Principles and Guidelines on Social impact mitigation compliant. All processes are monitored and validated by the independent Mine Resettlement Coordination Committee of local Government officials. Alternative land is determined using the traditional land allocation system through a Land Access Committee to agree new land distribution and to obtain security of tenure through a new Tribal Land Certificate. The livelihoods program includes an adult literacy package, life skills and small enterprise management training, agricultural skills for intensification of agriculture, diversification as well as improved processing and marketing. The program contains a special component to facilitate affected persons to complete their high school certificate prior to undertaking skills training as this is the best passage to learning and employment success.

They also accused the company of bad labor practice, the not is not employing citizens of the county?

ArcelorMittal Liberia is committed to providing employment and contract to Nimba County residents, and out of the 325 ArcelorMittal Liberia permanent staff employed in Yekepa, 140 are from NImba, with other employees from various parts of Liberia. Approximately 92% of ArcelorMittal Liberia's permanent staff is Liberians. We encourage our contractors to also follow the same principle by hiring from our affected communities as well.

ArcelorMittal is committed to upholding UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ILO Principles and is in full support of Liberianization of the workforce. The company has a number of education and training program opportunities for up skilling Liberian nationals to have the right skills and qualification required for specialist jobs through a number of targeted scholarships from High School to University and Vocational training. In September, the company will re-open the newly refurbished Vocational Training Center, based on international standards, for skills acquisition in Yekepa.

Another issue is that they have accused the not building any hand pump or giving them safe drinking water most especially in the area L in Yekepa?

To date, our Corporate Responsibility team has installed 46 hand pumps, and area L is listed to receive a hand pump this year.

The company refused to build more health facilities as was agree in the agreement with your company and the government of Liberia. Once about 200 employees working in a particular area the company needs to construct a health facilities . No sufficient doctors at your hospital to cater to sick patients, and people pay 100 ld for the night when they sleep at the hospital

Access to healthcare is a fundamental human right, but crumbling infrastructure has left most areas in Liberia without adequate healthcare facilities. Without such facilities our employees, their families and the broader community face illness and death from many preventable diseases. We are committed to ensuring the health of employees, contractors and their families, both on and off the job. It is also a business imperative to have a healthy and productive workforce.

We have made significant investment in the development of health facilities in our areas of operation. These include upgrading running hospitals in Buchanan and Yekepa, which have 62 and 35 beds, respectively, and a medical clinic in Green Hill Quarry, Bong County.

Through these facilities, we provide free, 24-hours healthcare to employees and their dependents, and subsidized healthcare to local community members. In 2012, ArcelorMittal's Yekepa and Buchanan hospitals treated 21,884 patients.

We believe it is our corporate responsibility to assist in providing healthcare to communities around our concession; therefore we go above and beyond our requirement by providing the best health care available in regions where there is none, at a considerable expense to the company.

They talk of poor road construction, housing facilities in the area.

In January of 2013, ArcelorMittal Liberia's CEO, Antonio Maria Carlos and Public Works Minister, Kofi Woods signed the Ganta Yekepa road agreement to begin construction of the road in Q4 of 2013. The road, which is not part of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA), will be a 70km two lane, high standard black-top highway that will run from Ganta City to Yekepa. ArcelorMittal has committed a maximum budget of $40 million dollars to the building of the highway.

In Phase I of the project, the company spent $800 million dollars on major infrastructural developments to get the project underway. That included rebuilding of the rail, housing in both Yekepa and Buchanan that were totally destroyed, rebuilding of the Port, schools, hospitals and other much needed infrastructure. The company has budgeted $1.5 billion dollars towards Phase II which will include the rebuilding of more housing units and other infrastructure.

Through regular stakeholder engagements, we are updated on the County's needs and provide intervention based on our own assessment. All of our activities are publicly released in our annual Corporate Responsibility report, ESIA, and through our quarterly 1 magazine distributed to stakeholders and the public. We are committed to our promise of transforming tomorrow and we do so in a transparent and open way, and by consulting stakeholders, and always by applying international best -practice standards, be it in occupation health, safety, human rights or anti-corruption. In addition, we encourage our suppliers to make investments into the country to leverage our presence.

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