Extractive specialists say oil has not been found in Liberia yet, opposed to longstanding rumors that the frontier country in West Africa was producing oil.
In various presentations at a weeklong media training in Monrovia to empower Liberian journalists with basic knowledge in covering and reporting issues on the extractive industry, participants were told that oil has not been found yet in the country but that explorations were ongoing.
When selected through a competitive bidding process, concession companies do preparation on their mines followed by exploration, development and possible production where resources are found in commercial quantities, among others.
Though hard mineral resources are being extracted from Liberia in millions of tonnes as the oil and gas industry is still carrying on exploration, challenges glaringly continue among citizens in concession areas over complaints of lack of interventions to empower local business people in addition to the high unemployment problems facing Liberia.
Senator Cletus Wotorson, one of Liberia's professional Geologists and Geophysists said there are mixed conceptions about what oil is in Liberia, pointing to cases where some citizens thought oil occurs as a river while others had argued that oil has been taking away in buckets and gallons.
Speaking last week at the iLab Liberia in Sinkor, Senator Wotorson said as far as he was concerned if oil was found in Liberia, the country could compete with oil countries in the Middle East because the structures that are here are as large as those in the Middle East.
But he said Liberia should be able to find oil somewhere, on grounds that the country has large rocks that can serve as reservior to oil. He assured that the Senate will pass laws that will protect the resources, because if laws are not made to guide "us, then we would have a resource curse."
In her presentation also, Attorney Vulate J. Hage said Liberia is not among oil countries in the world, saying "We have not found oil; Liberia is not among oil countries."
She said even if Liberia were to find oil tomorrow, it would take another seven years to drill. Chevron Liberia Country Manager Mr. Karl Cottrell said it is absolutely false, reports on the radio and in the newspapers that Liberia is already producing oil.
He described the hydrocaborn industry as a risky industry, citing conditions of losses that the industry sometime faces by not getting oil out of the rock after investment has already been made.
Nimba County Assistant Development Superintendent Mr. Teeko Tozay Yorlay first disclosed that BHP Billiton on an annual basis provides US$133,333.33 for Nimba County to be used in two communities, specifically the St. John River and Kitoma; while ArcelorMittal Liberia provides US$1.5m which comes in the form of the Social Development Funds.
But in terms of local contents, Mr. Yorlay said while some of the locals are producing some commodities, there exist challenges in making available the kind of supply that Axelormittal needs to be made available on the basis of Mittal Steel's demands for the commodities.
He spoke of challenges regarding the issue of creating linkages between local business actors to loan geeting opportunities to enlarge their activities to have their resources meet the huge fruit needs of the company.
But he made it clear that there has been no complaint of Mittal Steel's deliberate boycotting of the local market to patronize other businesses. Mr. Yorlay frowned on the concession company for not improving the facilities there it now occupies, expressing fears that upon departure, people won't be able to occupy the facilities.
"We feel that when they leave those structures will not be conducive for others to dwell in. the operational area of ArcelorMittal is not given the kind of face lift that it supposed to be given," he said.
On the other hand, Mr. Yorlay also mentioned that county authority had sent back another group called the Iron Resource to Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy to obtain letter for operatin, on grounds that when companies engage in exploration activities, the labor law requires that they are available two percent of their written annual budget to impact the lives of the citizens.
However, AcelorMittal Yekepa Resident Communication Manager Mr Jerry Nwagbe said renovations were done on some houses for employees, while also saying squatters were refusing to leave structures they occupied since the war here. Some residents who spoke with journalists said AcelorMittal give medical and educational entitlement to five children of each of its employees.
Already, AcelorMittal's Infrastructure Manager Mr. Frederick Zanklah spoke of plans to expand the company's ore steel plant, targeting next year to be shipping out of Liberia 15m tonnes of ore from its roughly 12m tonnes shipment or more to China and Europe, among others.