Monrovia — The Executive Chairman of ArcelorMittal, Lakshmi Mittal has assured the government and people of Liberia that its latest US$800 million agreement will not only increase the company's investment in Liberia to US$2.5 billion, it will create thousands of jobs and boost the Liberian economy.
With the latest investment, Mr. Mittal said the company has remained one of Liberia's largest investors for 16 years, and over these years, it has demonstrated that it is a stable, reliable and strategic investor; and is proud of the contribution it has made to the country and its people.
Speaking at the signing ceremony graced by President George Weah and top government officials, Mr. Mittal said the company will be expanding its mining operations - in the first phase tripling its current production levels to 15 million tons a year; and will be exploring the potential to go beyond that - up to 30 million tons a year.
The product, he added, will also be higher quality and to deliver this premium quality, the company will be constructing a new concentration plant - with the first concentrate expected in late 2023.
He said: "To deliver on this potential, we will again need to enhance the infrastructure - for example increasing the capacity of the rail link connecting Tokadeh with Buchanan, as well as with the port of Buchanan. It is a very ambitious plan and one that we at ArcelorMittal are very excited about."
He continued: "But, ultimately, we hope that it is the people of Liberia that will benefit most from this agreement. The expansion of our operations is expected to generate thousands of jobs for the local population during the construction and operating phases. More than 2000 jobs will be created during the construction phase and the vast majority of these roles will of course be for Liberian citizens."
Once up and running, he said an additional 1000 jobs for Liberian citizens will be generated.
ArcelorMittal signed a landmark agreement in 2005, becoming the first public international company to come to Liberia after years of unrest. Since arriving in the country, ArcelorMittal has been helping to educate and train people for the specific skills needed for the mining sector.
All through the years, he said the company has invested heavily in the Liberian economy; beginning with the physical and social infrastructure critical to help Liberia back on a path of economic development.
"We built roads and railways, we helped set up schools and hospitals - and slowly but surely mining in Liberia came back to life. It was a huge milestone when in 2011 we shipped the first iron ore from Liberia in 20 years," he recounted.
"I remember that day very clearly. It was a celebration of more than just the re-start of mining operations in reestablishing mining in the country, we also helped the country rebuild - and being part of that journey has been extremely rewarding for all of us I am sure."
He thanked President George Weah and his team for their commitment to reach the agreement; adding that though, the period of negotiation was tough, he admired the hard-working spirit of both parties.
He noted that the negotiation period has also enabled both parties to know each other better, deepening their relationship and building further trust.
"This is an excellent foundation as we start this new phase that will see us invest an additional US$800 million in the country - taking our total investment to US$2.5 billion," he said.
Enhanced Training Opportunities Looming
Since arriving in the country, the ArcelorMittal's Chairman trumpeted that the company has been helping to educate and train people for the specific skills needed for the mining sector; and it is now going to expand its vocational training center to reach out to more Liberians.
He mentioned that one of the benefits of ArcelorMittal as a global company is that, its employees have the chance to enhance their knowledge and skill set through working in different parts of the group. He disclosed that the company has established a new program for high potential Liberian employees and talented graduates who will be offered the opportunity to work at some of the company's other major mining operations in Brazil and Canada.
"They will then be able to bring this knowledge back home to Liberia. As Chairman of the company, I am delighted that we can make this contribution to the country and your people. After 16 years here, we really do see ourselves as a partner for Liberia. We have been through some tough times together. Ebola is the most obvious example."
He continued: "That was a terrible time for your country but you came through it with a remarkable display of strength and fortitude. We stood beside you through that period when many others shut down their operations and took their people out. Tough though those times were, I believe that it demonstrated to you that ArcelorMittal is a company that is here in good times and bad."
He expressed confident that with this new agreement, there are good times ahead; nothing, "It is a very large project and to succeed, we will need the support and cooperation of all stakeholders. But the journey we have experienced in Liberia over the past sixteen years, makes me confident we will be able to achieve that if we work openly and honestly together with a relationship based on transparency and trust."
He then expressed hope that the new agreement will also send a positive signal to the world that Liberia is a stable place for international investment. He also paid homage to all the employees of ArcelorMittal Liberia who, he said, have made the company's operation a success, and have laid the foundations for the next phase; adding, "Working together I am sure we will make it a success we can all be proud of."