MONROVIA-Considering the huge benefits of the Third Amendment to ArcelorMittal Liberia Mineral Development Agreement (MDA), many community organizations continue to join calls for government to ratify ArcelorMittal extended agreement as soon as possible.
The latest organization which has joined in this call is the Agricultural Relief Service (ARS), a local non-governmental organization operating in Nimba.
In September, Liberia and ArcelorMittal signed a landmark third amendment to the company’s Mineral Development Agreement (MDA), paving the way for the expansion of the company’s operations with additional investments of over US$1 billion. However, progress on the ratification of the Third Amendment to the company MDA has been slow, due to reported strong influence and manipulation by some external companies seeking to capitalize on AML’s investment in Liberia.
Amid delays in ratification of AML MDA, several stakeholders have raised concerns about the risks such delays could pose to Liberia and its people accruing the benefits of the company’s mega Phase II expansion project. These organizations including the Agricultural Relief Service (ARS) have made their collective position clear by calling on the government to ratify the agreement, terming it a good deal for the country.
A non-governmental organization (NGO) working with residents in mining communities in Nimba to reduce subsistence farming pressure on the upland forest, ARS is calling on the government to amicably resolve whatever issues delaying the ratification of the amended AML MDA.
The group’s Executive Director, Luogon Lah said ArcelorMittal’s phase-two expansion program which would officially kick off upon the ratification of the company’s third MDA amendment has enormous benefits for Liberia and its citizens, ranging from an increase in royalties and social development funds to an increased number of new jobs, and education and training opportunities for Liberians.
He said ARS being aware of the benefits is also knowledgeable of the opportunities the agreement would provide for local farmers.
In an interview, Lah said those criticizing AML’s current operation should consider that it is through the company’s operations that it is providing several development benefits to the three host counties, and the Government of Liberia at large.
“If Mittal Steel (ArcelorMittal) does not mine and we are unable to exploit our resources as a country, there will equally be no money for development,” he said.
“That is why we are telling the government to study the agreement to pass it in the interest of the citizens because AML’s contributions to the protection of the forest and farmers are essential to the upkeep of the environment and the farmers.”
According to him, the company’s biodiversity and conservation program are immensely contributing to sustainable farming practices, which allow farmers to concentrate on making permanent, farms like oil palm cultivation. He said lowland farming, animal husbandry, and vegetable cultivation being implemented are contributing to the conservation of the forest.
Lah explained that AML’s support to local farmers through his organization over the last six years is also helping to increase farmers’ yields and contribute to food security. ARS as part of the partnership with AML this year alone has provided US$116,000, to support 40 local farming groups.
Farmers benefitting from the biodiversity and conservation program agreed with ARS, and also joined the effort to encourage the government to act swiftly in passing the AML MDA.