When the National Task Force on Ebola, anytime from now, announces the last infected person healed or dead, with no additional cases emerging afterwards, Liberia would sigh a huge relief from the virus’ nightmarish devastation. Though Ebola-related deaths would have come to an end, it would not be the end of the trouble for Liberia. Pundits are predicting that the devastated population would then be awakening to an equally ruinous crisis—a biting economic crisis, which if not managed would result into political crisis. And the roots of those crises have begun to form right now. The postwar country’s largest investor, Arcelormittal, is parking out of here and there are signs that other major concessionaries would soon be freezing their jobs-underpinning operations, as The Analyst’s Edward Palmer reports.
Due to the evolving situation of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, contractors working on the phase 2 expansion project of ArcelorMittal have declared force majeure and are moving out of the country, according to a communication given to this paper on Monday by the company.
ArcelorMittal’s Chief Executive Officer for Mining, Bill Scotting, said while the termination of contracts for several companies sub- contracting for Arcelor Mittal is taking effect, the priority for Liberia and any other affected countries right now is to contain and ultimately stop the current outbreak of Ebola.
“We are providing full support to the government in this regard and taking every precaution to protect all of our employees on the ground in Liberia”, he added.
Mr. Scotting assured that ArcelorMittal has made a long-term commitment to Liberia and that the company will maintain this commitment.
Acknowledging that the recent developments are very alarming, Mr. Scotting noted that at present, the company’s management believes that the emergency procedures and other measures developed and currently in place at all ArcelorMittal sites in Liberia make it possible to continue phase one of their operations.
He noted that since the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia, ArcelorMittal has taken every precaution to protect its employees and operations, including providing thermo flash scanners to test for fever in all employees and visitors to all ArcelorMittal Liberia locations.
Mr. Scotting added that 500 full sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) have already been distributed to ArcelorMittal hospitals and other hospitals and clinics in Nimba, Buchanna, and training has been provided to health care workers and employees. Ebola awareness sessions were conducted by a leading Ebola prevention and control expert, and an infectious disease nurse has been brought in who serves as the company’s in house expert that is now working closely with ArcelorMittal hospital team, Mr. Scotting confided through his communications.
ArcelorMittal is currently mining and shipping 5 million tons of ore a year in Liberia from its operations in Yekepa and Buchanna described as Phase one of its operations.
The company is also working on an expansion project described as phase-2 that will see shipments rise to 15 million tons of ore with first production planned by the end of 2015.
There are reports that several other major companies operating in the country are on red alert and anxiously monitoring the situation.
“Right now, we have put the emergency at level 4 with level 6 being the high point,” said an official of Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) who does not want to be named in print because he was not authorized to speak on the matter. “Once it moves to level 6, we will be compelled to fold in part or in whole.”