Liberia: Bush Swallows Yekepa - Citizens Frustrated in Arcelormittal

Several workers and residents in the mining town of Yekepa, Nimba County, have expressed disgust over the attitude of ArcelorMittal by refusing to renovate houses in the area. Instead, they have brought in containers for expatriates to dwell.

A reporter who visited the area last week was told. Many of the workers said, "the company is not contemplating on renovating the already existing houses, but they are more interested in getting containers here for their foreign staff to live in."

They said, as a result of this, when the company is done with extracting the iron ore, they will take the containers and place same on ship to a different country, thus leaving the place undeveloped.

Many persons who visited or lived in pre-war Yekepa, Northern Liberia were happy, when Arcelor Mittal, in 2007 were given the green light to operate Mount Nimba, formerly operated by Liberia America Mining Company -LAMCO.

But as it appears, their expectations about the rehabilitation of Yekepa, which lies near the Guinean border, have been dashed as ArcelorMittal is yet to bring Yekepa to its pre-war status. A visit by the writer of this story last week showed that many parts of the city are gradually turning into forest. Huge structures and residential complexes, which once added to the beauty of the mountainous town, are left unattended to in the bush.

The community which hosts the popular African Bible College University (ABC) lacks basic social services like running water and electricity in many parts.

Some workers and staff's quarters are yet to be renovated by Arcelor Mittal after nearly six years of operations.

Wild grass has taken over many streets, including Yekepa's principal streets.

The economic situation in the area is discouraging as many residents told this reporter.

They told the reporter that the company is only concern about shipping its ores from Yekepa.

"This is not good at all. We had anticipated that by this company coming, we would have things changed around. But that is not the case," one resident, Anthony said.

The company recently announced that its operations in Liberia shipped about 3 million tons of iron ore from Jan 1 to Aug 8, 2013.

It was almost double the shipment registered in the same period a year ago. The company shipped 516,000 tons of iron ore in the month of Jul 2013 which nearly tripled from 175,138 tons shipped in Jul 2012.

The improvements in Liberia operations led to the increased shipments. The main contribution came from the ability to carry out trans-shipment in the dry season. A smaller vessel is loaded for three or four rotations during trans-shipment, transmitting up to 60,000 tons of ore to Cape-size ocean going vessels of up to 200,000 tons.

The ore is then transported to customers in Europe and China. ArcelorMittal has already shipped 3 million tons of ore in 2013 and remains on track to produce 4.5 million tons in 2013.

Despite the quantity of iron ores being shipped from Nimba County, most roads across the county lie in ruin. Road connecting the mining town to other communities in Nimba County lies in ruin, with countless potholes. It was observed that most of the towns near the concession areas are without functional schools and clinics.

When this reporter contacted an official at the Public Affairs department in Yekepa, he was told that the person responsible for comment was not available to react. In Monrovia, he called the office for comment, there was no one available as the phone rang.

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