Liberia: Nimba Affected Communities Want Arcelormittal Contract Extended

Nimba Kwadoo, an influential grassroots citizen advocacy group has called on the government of President George Weah to extend Arcelor Mittal Contract so as to complete its planned work in the affected communities since they are direct beneficiaries.

The group has found that nearly all of the communities affected by ArcelorMittal's operations are upbeat that the company must remain in Liberia and its time extended.

The pronouncement by the Nimba Kawdoo which has been at the forefront of various groups opposing the new AML one billion mineral development agreement comes after a weeklong citizens' engagement. The group said it is convinced that AML is up for business and should be given the green light to extend its contract.

The statement was made this week in Ganta, the commercial hub of Nimba County when its Deputy Board chairman Alexander Suah and National President Isaac Z Dahn held a live press conference to brief the people of the county on what they have discovered during the period of a week as they quizzed citizens in various communities of the county on the benefits the company has brought to them since its operation began nearly fifteen years ago.

At the press conference on Radio Kergarhma 94.5 FM in Ganta City, a widely listen to the station in Nimba, Nimba Kwadoo deputy Board Chairman Suah said while the citizens realize that Mittal has positively affected their lives in many ways, they also want to be a part of the decision making processes that relate to the new AML Deal.

"Some of the things that Mittal was not doing they have started to do them and it is true that the people what they to stay"

Mr. Dahn informed the audience that the company has recently increased its community development initiatives and contributed to schools, and hospitals as well as employing more than 250 new employees, some of whom come from the affected communities.

He said the purpose of their meeting with local residents was to gather firsthand information on what was obtained in the communities that are affected by the mining operations of ArcelorMittal to enable the group make informed decisions on behalf of the people of Nimba.

Said Suah: "after the AML deal was sent back to the executive, we wanted to include our recommendation and the recommendations of other groupings of Nimba into the new agreement that will be sent to the National Legislature for passage" he added, and "this tour has made us understand that people are using our citizens to direct their energy wrongly while the problem still remains the same" he added".

According to him, the assessment additionally informs his Nimba Kwadoo that the people of the county must "direct our anger the right way and use less time and get better results" rather than agitation against the people who are actually not responsible.

The visit to eleven communities across Nimba he noted was an "an eye-opener" which suggests that when critical reasoning is applied, one would understand that Arcelor Mittal has been doing a lot for the communities but these communities have not seen or felt the benefits of what these undertakings by the concession have been so far.

"When you get to some of the communities you feel so discouraged about full representation, you will also get to know that Mittal has been doing XYZ things that favor and should have moved the affected community from one place to another but that has not been happening because those people who should be ensuring that they benefit are not doing so"

Nimba Kawdoo in its media takeout suggested that most of the money given by the company for social development and corporate social benefit to counties has not been substantially utilized to the benefit of the local communities.

Mr. Suah and Mr. Dahn added that once the people in the communities want the company to stay, they will continue to remain positively engaged.

In September 2021, the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal signed a landmark amendment to the company's Mineral Development Agreement ('MDA') which paved the way for additional investment of approximately USD $800 to expand the company's mining and logistics operations in Liberia.

The deal was later expanded to US$1 billion to include additional funding for rail and port facilities expansion.

When the MDA amendment takes effect, ArcelorMittal Liberia will significantly ramp up production of premium iron ore, generating significant new jobs and wider economic benefits for Liberia.

The expansion project will cover the processing, rail, and port facilities and the construction of a new concentration plant as well as the substantial expansion of mining operations, with the first concentrate expected in late 2023, ramping up to 15 million tons per annum ('mtpa').

More than 2500 jobs are expected to be created during the construction phase, with Liberians envisaged filling the majority of the roles created. As the largest foreign investor in Liberia, ArcelorMittal Liberia has already invested over $1.7 billion in the country over the past 15 years.

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