21 March 2014

Liberia: 'Long-Term Benefits'? Nimba Rail Attracts Huge Investment to Liberia

Monrovia — The Nimba rail used during prior to the Liberian civil war for the transportation of iron ores by the former Liberia Mining Company (LAMCO) and recently rehabilitated by Arcelor Mittal Steel is about to attract a mega million investment from West Africa Exploration (WAE), ongoing discussions between Liberian and Guinean officials to derive a formal agreement indicate.

Energy and transport officials from Liberia and Guinea are holding consultations on deriving an agreement for the use of the Nimba rail by Sable/ WAE which could result into the investment of millions of dollars and creation of about 840 jobs for Liberians and additional jobs on the Guinea side.

At a one day discussion held at the Royal Grand Hotel in Monrovia Thursday under the theme-"A partnership for prosperity, an insight into the planned near-term development of the Nimba Detritallron (Canga) project and its benefits to Guinea and Liberia" ministers of Lands, Mines and Energy and Transportation along with other stakeholders from the two countries highlighted the importance of transcending from a Memorandum Understanding to the signing of an agreement on the use of the rail by WAE to the two countries.

Chris Parry, Director General of WAE said when the agreement is signed; his company will invest over 300 million as initial investment.

Parry said the investment will run for three to four years and the company will make further investment as over 840 people are expected to benefit job opportunities with bulk coming from Liberia.

H.E. Kerfalla Yansane, Minister of Mines and Geology of the Republic of Guinea speaking through an interpreter said the signing of an agreement allowing WAE, expected to mine from Guinea to use Liberia's rail to transport its products through the Port of Buchanan will bring huge economic benefits to the two countries.

Patrick Sendolo, Liberia's Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy said besides the initial investment by the WAE when the agreement is signed there will be other long term benefits derived from such agreement.

"Look at the long term benefits, the rail will be constructed better to suit the activities of the users, fees will be paid to the Government of Liberia and there will be construction of different kinds of facilities and significant benefits could flow beyond the initial investment", said Minister Sendolo.

Minister Sendolo said following the consultations, further awareness will be carried out within the local communities to seek the input of the locals into the agreement to ensure the success of the rail's usage.

Liberia owns Nimba Rail

Liberia's Minister of Transport, Tornorlah Varpillah said the rail is owned by Liberia and as such a third party has access to the rail once set criteria are met.

"Once a third party meets all conditions set by the Government of Liberia, such party can use the rail because the rail is owed by Liberia", Minister Varpillah stated in response to a question by a Guinean journalist as to whether Mittal Steel currently using the rail will consent to its usage by another company.

Said Minister Varpillah "If you have a road, all transport companies can use the road, so it is the same with the rail, we just need to work out the details on how the parties will use the rail, it could be through scheduling the usage by all parties".

Eyeing 2015 Ore Shipment

WAE, the company endeavoring to use the Nimba rail for transportation in a presentation before the inter-ministerial Concession committee said when an agreement is signed, the company anticipates the commencement of the production of low-cost, high- grade direct shipping ore at Nimba in 2015.

"Sable mining/WAE notes the epoch-signing of the MOU as significant step for WAE, as the company anticipates the commencement of the production of low-cost, high-grade direct shipping ore at Nimba in 2015, which the WAE views as also a milestone that is thrust on a strategic Pan African-inspired vision that seeks to bolster strong socio-economic cooperation and integration between Liberia and Guinea in the Mano River Union basin", a statement by WAE stated.

The company stated that given the long historic and cultural ties between Liberia and Guinea it anticipates and looks forward to working with the Government of Liberia to further stimulate a critical public-private partnership for the social and economic advancement of the two peoples and countries.

According to the company, it intends to benefit from an existing Bilateral Agreement between Liberia and Guinea that authorizes the transport of iron-ore from the Nimba project, in Guinea, through the port of Buchanan in Liberia.

Stated WAE "Already the bilateral agreement has been implemented for projects including companies in the area of the Nimba project, including the SMFG joint venture project, to promote economic growth, as these companies are less than 60 km from the rail line at Yekepa, Nimba County in southwestern Liberia".

Helping to fight poverty

The company said inspite of other benefits from its activities in Liberia; it also hopes to work with the Government of Liberia in fighting poverty through social development centered projects and protecting the environment.

"Through its Pan African driven socioeconomic partnership concept WAE, reckons strong collaboration with the Government of Liberia in the fight against poverty and stands as a towering partner in harnessing the prospects for prosperity, growth and development. Communities-led projects for improved livelihoods will inform WAE's practical engagement for changing lives through sustainable employment opportunities", WAE promised.

Amongst others WAE listed several benefits that will accrue to the Government and people of Liberia including benefits in terms of indirect taxes to government, promising that WAE will vigorously undertake social development centered projects as already manifested by the renovation of schools in its Guinea Project locales, the provision of incentives such as school buses for disadvantaged rural youngsters who are also future leaders.

"A key component of WAE's agenda is the promotion of healthcare, sanitation, provision of safe-drinking water, etc. WAE shall seek to remain fully engaged with critical stakeholders across the broad spectrum, engage community in management of their environment, tackle road building and improve infrastructure, be forthcoming in safe-guarding forest, wildlife preservation for long-term sustainability, engage the communities to develop the passion for and promote agro-based activities for self-sufficiency", WAE promised in its presentation.

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