Liberian Senate Constitutes Specialized Committee to Conduct Fact Finding Mission At Arcelormittal Operational Areas Amid Review of Landmark Agreement

Monrovia — The Plenary of the Liberian Senate has set up a specialized committee to conduct a fact finding mission at the operational areas of Arcelor Mittal Liberia as its sets to review the amended Mineral Development Agreement it signed with the Government of Liberia.

The sis-member committee include the Chairman of the Senate committee on Executive, Senator Saah H. Joseph (Montserrado) as Chairman, Senators Jeremiah Koung (Nimba County) and Abraham Darius Dillon of (Montserrado County). Others members on the fact finding committee are Senators Jonathan Boye Charles Sogbe (River Gee County) Augustine Chea (Sinoe County) and Boto Kanneh of Gbarpolu County.

The Senate's decision to constitute the specialised committee followed the submission of Arcelormittal deal for extension to the Senate on Thursday by President George M. Weah.

The Agreement was forwarded to the Senate's Joint Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy and Natural Resources; Concession and Investment; Ways, Means, Finance and Budget, and Judiciary were mandated by Plenary to review and scrutinize the proposed agreement for further actions.

The Specialized committee is mandated by Plenary to visit the operational areas of the world steel giant to ascertain the impact of the company's operations on the affected residents and communities.

The committee's assessment will put members of the Senate in the position to make an informed decision on the proposed amendment.

The company currently operates in Nimba, Grand Bassa and Bong counties.

The three affected counties receive an annual amount of US$3 million, with Nimba receiving an amount of US$1.5 million, Grand Bassa US$ 1million and Bong US$ 500,000.

The Company in 2016 signed a 25-year Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) with the Liberian Government. The company recently negotiated with the Executive for an extension of the deal amounting to US$800 million, which is currently before the Legislature for actions.

In the communication accompanying the agreement, President Weah reiterated that under the third amendment, Arcelor Mittal will among other things, make US$800 million investment in Liberia, which will provide the Government US$55 million within 19 months of ratification,

"It will develop the Yekepa-Buchanan corridor, creating much needy jobs and training for Liberians, as well as direct foreign investment toward Liberian infrastructures," President Weah said.

In September this year, the Government, represented by President Weah and the company's Chairman and CEO, Indian-born billionaire Lakshmi Mittal signed an amendment to the MDA which paves the way for the expansion of the Company's mining and logistics operations in Liberia.

If the MDA amendment takes effect following the ratification by the Legislature, it is anticipated that ArcelorMittal Liberia will significantly ramp up production of premium iron ore; generating significant new jobs and wider economic benefits for Liberia.

Two Visits in Three Months

The Senate Specialized Committee's visit will mark the second tour in three months of the company's concession area by members of the 54th Legislature.

In late September, Nimba County's new Senator Jeremiah Koung led members of the Nimba Legislative Caucus to the company's concession areas in the county.

Senator Koung and his colleagues expressed outmost disappointment over what they termed as the company's failure to live up to the existing concession agreement.

Speaking during the tour of the Yekepa Hospital, Senator Koung said: "I have seen that nothing has changed. But I can say to you that I am not impressed because this is just the same old building, no addition and no subtraction for almost 75 to 80 years... Especially when we get the world's biggest steel giant. It doesn't look good; it doesn't represent the kind of investment we have in this country."

The expressions of all the lawmakers on the trip were the same. Rep. Gleekia called for a review of the agreement to gather "what has been done and what has not yet been implemented."

'Obviously, my impression wouldn't be a good one as you can see. Not everyone has the opportunity to review the agreement. It is now time to review and correct some of the wrongs,' he said.

Rep. Kargon, who helped the team to locate what used to be the largest swimming pool in West Africa under the thick bushes, called for either a swift review of the MDA, or a refusal to ratify another new agreement.

"I have no impression. Look at the bushes that cover the entire area. The way forward is to revisit the agreement and make them do the right things; or refuse to renew."

The delegation did not meet any senior or foreign staff of the company; something Senator Koung flagged out at the climax of the tour.

"We are not impressed with what we have seen. We will tell our colleagues the reality of what is happening here. We want to say thank you. We would have appreciated to see some of the expats and some of the very high ranking people in the company. But unfortunately, we didn't see them, but we saw you our brothers who are Liberians."

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