Tubmanburg — At long last, Western Cluster Mining Company has finally broken grounds to start full operation in the western region of Liberia.
Citizens of Bomi County, inclusive of the local leadership, chiefs, and elders turned in their numbers as the elders of the region welcomed the Indian company to start its operations in the county.
As the company gets the blessings from elders and residents of the region, residents, specifically from Bomi County have expressed that the company brings on board all necessary outputs that will benefit the entire region.
Witnessing the groundbreaking ceremony in the county Wednesday, June 8, 2022, residents of Bomi County hoped that the company is not a 419 company that will be self-seeking and forget the people who own the land of the company's operations.
Mother Marie Browne could not hold back her joy as she witnessed the groundbreaking but was quick to give a warning shot to the company about the locals' well-being.
"We don't want to come here and dance for nothing that a company is coming to our county and at the end of the day, the company turns against our interest and starts to build their own lives and forget us that owns the land," she expressed.
Another resident, a youth of Tumanburg City, Kelvin Darlington Amara hoped that the young people in the region be employed to better their lives.
"There's this thinking of many people that the people of Bomi are lazy, but it's not the case, we haven't been given that opportunity to prove ourselves like the way we Mittal in Nimba County, MNG Gold in Bong County, and LAC in Grand Bassa County, but with this groundbreaking today, it proves that the people of Bomi and its surroundings need to work hard to bring the necessary pride to our region," he said.
"Our children need to earn their own money, we need some of the best investors in this county and our people now need to open their minds to be creative to dispel that thinking of people that we lazy, no, we are not lazy, and we hope this company will not bring the noise in this region," another resident of Bomi Noami Roberts noted.
However, in the face of the nearing operation, citizens of Bomi County, are calling on the management and the Liberian government to ensure that the company's operation has positive impact on their livelihoods, especially in terms of economic growth, employment opportunities, and social benefits.
The Western Cluster Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) was obtained more than 10 years ago (in 2010), but could not start operation due several setbacks including the Ebola virus disease outbreak and the drop in the prices of iron ore on the world market.
Due to the stalling of the company's operations, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed between the government of Liberia and the company.
With the groundbreaking now taken place, the company is now cleared to operate at three iron ore deposits in Bomi, Grand Cape Mount,d and Gbarpolu Counties.
Chief Moinamah Jah, Paramount Chief of Manuah Chiefdom, Senjeh District in Bomi County, in a traditional welcome, expressed heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the Legislative caucuses of the three counties and the government of Liberia as well as the management of Western Cluster for the decision reached to finally begin operation, but with a caveat that said investment brings changes in the lives of the people.
"We are very happy for Western Cluster to be here, but we want you to cater to the people of Bomi because this is where you are starting. Please recognize us and let us benefit, while the people up there are benefiting. We need to benefit from our land or else, we will not consider you to continue here. We want you to look at us; the citizens, because we have suffered too much for this mine. To work here you must have to have respect for us as a people who own the land," stated the paramount chief.
Bomi County Senator, Edwin Melvin Snowe, who led the conversation for the finalization of the company's operation in similar tone urged the company to work in the interest of the local people, but with specific responsibilities to the people as well.
Pointing out that the people of Bomi and the entire western region need such an investment opportunity, called on citizens of the three counties, especially Bomi to equally respect and protect the interest of the company through high level of mutuality.
"Please call on us whenever there is a problem and not take laws into your own hands. There should be no road block. If you think we will pay attention to you when you block the roads to get redress you are wasting your time," the Bomi County Senator asserted.
Like Senator Snowe, Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Varney Nambi Gboto Sherman, also hopes that the company's operations make a difference in the lives of citizens so that the deal becomes a win-win situation.
"We thank God that all has worked well and hope that it will make a difference in the lives of our citizens here and country in general. As per this agreement signed, the company will pay royalty to every tone of iron ore taken away from these counties. So certainly, it will boost the development of our country and our people. We give our support to Western Cluster and we will equally ensure that you operate in a peaceful and enabling environment," Sen. Sherman told the gathering.
Senators Botoe Kanneh and Simeon Boimah Taylor of Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount County, respectively, expressed great delight over the pending operations of Western Cluster, but with similar pleadings.
"There must be cooperation between the company and the people so that the operations here will continue so that the economy of the western belt will be improved. We want to ensure that the right thing is done to improve our economy. This investment is for you, just take it; let's hold it and protect it and let's take good care of them," Senator Taylor added his voice to the many voices.
The Chairman of the Bomi County Legislative Caucus, Senator Morris Saytuma, said the investment is of great importance to the people of Bomi and as such, it must be protected.
He also pleaded for cooperation and collaboration between the people and the company for the greater good of development and economic revitalization.
"This is your mine and this is your product and you must do all to keep the contract going through because we need stability. Without stability, there can be no better output. This mine is the nerve of the Bomi economy. There will be some downstream benefits in the area of education, health and roads infrastructure," Sen. Saytuma outlined the many benefits of the investment to the people.
In remarks, Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mr. Sujal Shah, vowed to work in the interest of the people of Bomi and by extension Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, and Liberia at large during the course of its operation.
"I'm very happy to be here, in a county that deserves so much for development. We all understand the societal needs of the people. We have worked in many countries and continents and our dealings in those places are transparent.
"I want us to enjoy this investment together," Mr. Shah intoned.
"We expect that this mine will be operational in the shortest possible time. The time of commitment and resilience for the senator and the executive is in the best direction; it is in the right direction of economic revitalization. We want to express our heartfelt thanks to our own Bomi County Senator Snowe and Saytuma and Sherman as well as the Superintendent and the people of Bomi County for allowing us to come in. We look forward to seeing this journey that started years ago come to fruition.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Mines and Energy, Mr. Gesler E. Murray, explained that the Western Cluster operations will cover 6.5 acres of land in Bomi County.
As demanded by the people, he assured that the investment bring economic benefits to the three counties and the country at large.
Western Cluster will also contribute to the rehabilitation of key roads leading through the Bushrod Island. It will bring job opportunities and will boost our revenue folder. The mineral sector is the best sector to engender economic change for our country and we must place premium in this sector," the Minister among other things indicated.