Monrovia — In the midst of stiff resistance from hundreds of elders and citizens of the operational areas of steel giant ArcelorMittal over the expansion of the company's Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) signed with the Government of Liberia, the controversial Chairman of the Nimba County Legislative Caucus Senator Prince Y. Johnson has vowed to lobby with his colleagues at the Liberian Senate to ensure the full extension and ratification of the deal.
On September 10, 2021, the Government of Liberia and the ArcelorMittal signed an amendment to the MDA to meet with present day realities, following two years of intense and difficult negotiations
The signing brought to three the number of times the MDA signed with the company has been amended. The 3rd Amendment was required to ensure completion of ArcelorMittal Phase 2 project.
Under the new MDA, the Liberian government will secured about US$800 million expansion project to build a mine concentrate, expand capacity of the Rail and Port from the current production of 5 MTPA to 15MTPA within 3 years and a reservation to increase production to 30MTPA over the long term.
A statement issued disclosed that the Liberian government also secured a total $65 million payment from ArcelorMittal which includes $55million USD reservation fee for further of expansion rights for the project to 30MTPA and $10 million signing bonus.
The Government has also secured additional contribution of $300k to $500k annually for projects to be implemented directly by affected communities in Bong, Grand Bassa, and Nimba.
The statement added that ArcelorMittal expansion project will triple Iron ore production in Liberia with a corresponding increase in Government revenue and job creation.
"This $800 million Phase Two project will result in direct spending into the Liberian economy of approximately $200 million per year. The project will create approximately 1,200 direct employment and 400 indirect employment for Liberians. During Construction, there will be approximately 1,500 jobs created for Liberians".
Following the landmark signing of the new MDA, former Grand Bassa County Senator Gbenzongar Findley instituted a lawsuit against ArcelorMittal claiming that the company has not live up to the previous MDA signed with the Liberian government.
Despite the move made by the former Liberian Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Johnson has vowed to lobby with his colleagues to ensure the ratification of the new MDA signed without any hindrance.
Senator Johnson made the vow on Thursday, September 16, at a news conference held in Monrovia.
His promise comes barely a day after aggrieved citizens of Nimba petitioned the county's legislative caucus to vote against the extension of ArcelorMittal operations in the county.
The aggrieved Nimbaians detested a 25-year extension of the company's operations in the county without the full involvement of the locals.
Senator Johnson described as "hypocrites" those who crafted the petition for his aggrieved kinsmen for onward submission to the county's legislative caucus.
He indicated that issues raised within the petition have existed long since, but those who crafted the document did not speak against those issues because they held top positions in the former ruling Unity Party led-government of ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
"I just received the so call petition. People involve in crafting the petition are all Partisans of the Unity Party who work in strategic areas during Ellen's 12 years regime. When I was advocating for those incentives they mentioned we were called stupid officials they didn't support us".
"It is never too late to correct it. We will work with the Weah Government and we are optimistic that it will come through. All those things are in the old MDA and the company didn't comply but they didn't advocate for it to be implement is it because George Weah is President? This deal is in the interest of the people of Bassa, Bong and Nimba Counties we will lobby with our colleagues to ensure this agreement is ratified".
What's in the petition
On Wednesday September 15, 2021, a group of aggrieved citizens from Nimba County presented a petition to their Legislative Caucus through Representative Prince Tokpah, detesting the recent agreement entered into by the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) to extend existing Mineral Development Agreement by additional 25 years.
In their petition, the aggrieved citizens categorically and unequivocally denounced, rejected, and objected to and resisted the extension of the MDA with AML, until the steel company can demonstrate and prove its compliance with the current terms and condition of the MDA.
The added that any future extension and expansion of the MDA should be informed by AML's compliance with the terms and conditions of the previous MDA which include rehabilitation and construction of community infrastructures, provision of safe drinking water, provision of quality healthcare delivery systems, provision quality education, 25-50% transition of Management to Liberians, the provision of alternative livelihoods and other benefits listed in the Action Plan of 2013, etc.; must be considered and assured prior to any amendment and/or extension.
The citizens also want any future amendment to the MDA to be done in compliance with community rights as enshrined in the Land Rights Act; prior requirements of notice and publication of a feasibility report that sets out the basis for extension as stated in the current MDA.
They are also requesting that ownership of national assets such as railroad, port, should not be transferred or made a subject of co-ownership in any amendment of the MDA; and the government should ensure that AML complies with the full requirements of Article 10 of the first amendment to the MDA.
"The concessionaire to ensure that, subject to availability, within five (5) years of the Amendment Effective Date, 25% of all senior management positions at the concessionaire is held by Liberian citizens, increasing to 50% within ten (10) years of the Amendment Effective Date as reflected in Appendix G of the MDA."
The aggrieved Nimba citizens also want the 5% on undiluted interest in concessions granted to communities by the Land Rights Act be enforced, and that communities' inputs and concerns be obtained during any review of any concession located on customary/community land.
"We oppose any grant of mineral extraction above the current limit of five million tons per annum. The government should enforce the integration of local content within the operational areas of AML as required by Article 11 of the MDA; and the government should ensure that AML complies with the current MDA, and applicable and relevant laws of Liberia including the Land Rights Act, Mining Law, the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia" the aggrieved citizens mentioned in the petition.
In 2005, Arcelormittal signed an MDA with the Liberian government during the administration of ex-President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
The company was the first and single largest private investor in the country since the civil wars in Liberia in 2006.
ArcelorMittal Liberia's operation center around three key components including mining, railing and shipping iron ore.
Iron ore is excavated from Mount Gangra and processed at a nearby plant in the Tokadeh mines in Nimba County. The ore is then transported by rail on the 243 kilometers railway to the Port of Buchanan, where the ore is loaded onto ships for transportation around the world.
The first shipment of Direct Shipping Ore (DSO) left Liberian shores in September 2011.
The company has immensely contributed to improving the living conditions of citizens and carrying out multiple infrastructural developments since its operations were launched in Liberia in 2005.