Liberia is a land rich in mineral resources and reputed for having international corporations being the biggest players in the sector. Iron ore, diamond, gold, etc are found in different parts of the country. Currently, the key players exploiting these mineral resources are international corporations headed by expatriates. Despite the presence of these big international corporations, citizens all across the country continue to complain about their inability to benefit from their resources. They have protested and sometimes called on their officials to do more in ensuring that they benefit.
One of the key ways for Liberians to benefit more from their resources is for trusted Liberian companies to also participate in the mining sector, reasoning that smacks of President Weah's pledge that "Liberians should not be spectators in the economy." This would allow Liberians to head corporations, keep capital in the country which encourages more development, create value and empower more Liberians. One of such companies I have come to notice is Solway Mining Incorporated.
Who is Solway Mining Incorporated?
Research shows that Solway Mining Incorporated is a Liberia limited company owned and operated by Liberians. What could be confusing to some people bent on keeping Liberians out of the mining sector is that there exists a multinational corporation named Solway Investment Group headquartered in Switzerland with global operations - and is the world's largest privately-owned nickel producer. This company is owned by Alexander Bronstein, a billionaire entrepreneur who is an Estonian citizen. Solway Investment Group does not even list Solway Mining Incorporated of Liberia as one of its subsidiaries.
Solway Mining Incorporated, owned and operated by Liberians, and has been exploring for Iron Ore in Nimba County, which, I understand maybe in commercial quantity, could enable the company to apply for an MDA (Mineral Development Agreement) with the government of Liberia. Having an agreement can empower the company to then seek more resources, and the Solway Investment Group is poised to become a major shareholder, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the Liberian company. This money will enable the company to go onto full-scale mining operations, increase support to affected communities, employ more Liberians, pay more taxes, etc.
This is good news for the Liberian business sector that should be celebrated by Liberians - that a Liberian company can be trusted to attract foreign direct investment from other corporations as shareholders to participate in the mining sector. This is what most businesses do. They pull resources together, partner with others, etc., to achieve their investment goals.
Interestingly, the management of Solway Mining Incorporated has said that it is a strong proponent to framework corporations that allows for the expansion and multiuser of Liberia's national infostructure accessits especially the railway and the port facilities with no exclusivity to any one company. By doing so, it will bring maximum benefit to the Liberian People by increasing the revenue intake that strengthens the government in delivering basic social services to its citizens. There will also be direct benefits especially the three (3) counties that are host to these facilities, (Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa Counties) and importantly the affected communities that are along right away of the operations.
To this end, Solway Mining Incorporated is open to a broad-based partnership with all current and future users for these facilities for the good of Liberia, which creates a triple win; for the Government, the communities and the companies.
What has Solway been doing?
While not yet a fully functioning mineral development company, Solway Mining Incorporated has already been hitting the headlines for all the right reasons. The company has been in a mineral exploratory phase. Yet, 99.9 percent of its employees are Liberians with all of the senior-level managerial jobs occupied by Liberians, most of whom are youthful. Females are also actively involved in the managerial and day-to-day operations of the company.
Most significantly, the affected communities wherein the company operates have all spoken in glowing terms of it. On a recent visit by Monrovia-based media outlets, the locals told of how the company involves them and shows them due regards in their decision making, pays them handsomely if their land or produce is affected, employs locals from among them, etc.
The media were also taken to a farm where women were being trained into different agricultural ventures, giving them different livelihood skills since some of their farms would be affected. So, rather than being involved in traditional farming which is labor-intensive, their new skills would give them better and more fruitful options. All of these have made Solway a darling of the locals and they have now become the reference point for the mining sector in Nimba, and this may be angering others who may now be planting false stories to malign the company. However, we all must encourage Liberians like those in Solway to keep aspiring for doing big things in our economy, as it is only Liberians that can really develop their country. Let us support anyone Liberian to succeed in sectors that are clearly dominated by foreigners who may feel threatened by Liberians attempting to do the right things they have not and are not doing.