22 October 2018

Liberia: Arcelor Mittal Warns Citizens Off Rail Track

ArcelorMittal Liberia is warning citizens of Grand Bassa County, specifically residents of Buchanan City to desist using the railway or train track as entertainment spot.

Speaking over the weekend when the Liberia National Police launched its Road safety campaign in Bassa, Mr. Gus Knowlden; Government Relations Superintendent said some residents of Buchanan are always in the hobbit of sitting on the train track during the afternoon hours thus putting their lives and the company at risk.

"We want to urge you to please stay off the track. What we noticed is that people come on the train track in the evening to have fun and the track is not a place to have fun. Some of them put chairs in the track and start to have fun. Please stay off the trick. The train coming will damage you completely. The track is not a love making area, this is about your life, your future," he said in a rather serious mood.

ArcelorMittal Liberia has about 243 kilometers of main rail line running north-south between Buchanan and Tokadeh connecting ArcelorMittal Liberia's mining operation and its port, something Mr. Knowlden said Without this rail line, the company's work in Liberia will be non-existent.

Since the full rehabilitation of the track by the company, its trains have begun running from Yekepa in Nimba County to Buchanan, Grand Bassa County almost on the daily basis thus raising the frequency of train plying the track. Each of those train operates about 70 wagons at a speed of 40 -70km per hour, something the company say is very risky for people to be using the train track as entertainment spot especially during the evening hours.

With this increase in speed and frequency, Knowldenpointed that there are many concerns regarding safety, especially since residents along the track have become accustomed to walking, sitting, drying clothes, and using the tracks for many other unsafe acts in the past, stressing that the key message that the rail department continues to communicate is for those risking their lives to expect a train at any time and from any direction.

Meanwhile, some residents along the train track have acknowledged the danger associated to sitting on the train track.

"For me I sometimes sit on the track during the afternoon just to relax and have some quiet times but when the train is coming, we will know from the vibration and by that time we can move quickly. When the train pass, we sit again. Unless other places the track is always cool," said Gayumor Davies, age 32 and a resident of Buchanan.

Meanwhile, Davies say, with the caution emulating from the company, he intent never to sit on the track again, while acknowledging that there has been two deaths reported as result of playing on the train track.

Police Superintendent Fred M. Gaye Jr. also informed that they were totally surprised to have seen people having fine times on the track during one of their visits.

"As team from the LNP, we went on the track to do a survey and sadly we saw people kissing their fiancées, we saw people sitting there making cellphone calls, we saw people walking in the track. And what we continue to say to those people is the train track is not a playground, it is not like an ordinary car that will stop or limit its speed immediately. We are also encouraging ArcelorMittal to do more to increase its awareness to those communities where the track is passing," Gaye emphasized.

The company's work in Liberia represented the first Greenfield mining project undertaken by ArcelorMittal, which was established in 2006 following the merger of Arcelor and Mittal Steel. The ore are in Yekepa, Nimba County, and transported to the iron ore quay in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.

The history of Liberia's rail transport began shortly after World War II, when the Freeport of Monrovia was completed. In the early 1960s, three long-distance railway lines were constructed in Liberia, mainly for the transport of iron ore from mines to port facilities. About 480km in total length, they were the Mano River Railway, the LAMCO Railway and the Bong Mines Railway. All three of these lines were later closed down, due to the effects of the two Liberian civil wars between 1989-1996 and 1999-2003.

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