FrontPageAfrica (Monrovia)

Liberia: Tension, Protest in Nimba Over Mittal's Operations in Liberia

Monrovia — A protest has been staged in the town of Zolowee in Nimba County over the operations of world Steel giant Arcelor Mittal, a local county official has confirmed to FrontPageAfrica.

Assistant Superintendent for Development of Nimba County, Teeko T. Yorlay told FrontPageAfrica via mobile Thursday night that protestors blocked main roads and caused tension in Zolowee town demanding recounting of crops as a means of receiving compensation from Mittal for stopping them from farming in certain localities.

The local official explained that compensation has been paid over the years to locals for use of their land for roads and other mining activities by Mittal with over US$4.2 million already paid to the locals.

He said it has been suspected that some individuals who are not from the communities are masterminding the current protest using the situation to extort money.

"We learnt that some people who do not even hail from the communities are holding rubber seedlings and taking part in the protest using the situation to get money from the company by causing trouble but we are working with local chiefs to know the real land owners and solve the problem", Assistant Superintendent Yorlay said.

A Mine Resettlement Coordinating Committee, comprising the Ministries of Agriculture, Gender and development, the Environmental protection Agency, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Civil Society organizations and others, he said has been working with Mittal over the years on payments to the communities and the process has been going on smoothly.

Protesters want crops recount

Assistant Superintendent Yorlay said the protestors are claiming that some of their crops were not counted during the counting process in 2010 and are therefore demanding a recount.

"They are saying that some of their crops were not counted in 2010, and they want a recount, so on tomorrow we will be having a joint security meeting to solve the problem" Yorlay said.

He indicated that they are calling on the protestors to engage the process through dialogue rather than using violence.

Nimba County pays host to world steel Giant Mittal Steel after the company signed a 25 year mineral development agreement with the government of Liberia to mine iron ore in the country.

As part of its social corporate responsibility the company has paid millions of dollars to three counties- Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa for its operations with Nimba getting the lion share.

The current protest is not the first as in the past there has been protest against the operations of the company with some locals demanding compensation for use of their land which has made them to be unable to make farms.

After a recent protest, Mittal displayed photographs of development it has carried out since it began operations in the county including the construction of clinics, schools and other undertakings.

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