LETTER To the EDITOR: A rebuttal to the misleading and unethical claims in your Editorial of 9th December 2021 Captioned ‘Reject the Mittal Steel Amended Agreement’
Daily Observer Newspaper
The Liberian Observer Corporation
December 14, 2021
Dear Mr. Editor:
Our attention is drawn to the “editorial” contained in the 9th December 2021 edition of your newspaper, which was also published on your online platform.
While recognizing the historical prominence of The Daily Observer on Liberia media landscape, we hasten to express our shock and disappointment by your recent wave of unethical publications. The particular piece referenced supra was a catalog of misrepresentation and deliberate distortion of the facts. Judging by the level of misinformation, inaccuracies, and insinuations contained in this editorial, coupled with the distortions in previous editions about ArcelorMittal Liberia’s (AML) operations in Liberia, points to a trend which evidently unmasks the motive of these negative writings.
We lay bare before you the facts about your claims in your editorial, something which it seems you deliberately ignored, and challenge you to run this with the same prominence given your previous editorials and articles. For many years the founder and previous management team of “The Observer” ran the paper on professionalism, truth, and facts, which are lost today; thus, reducing a once highly revered newspaper to tabloid journalism.
Going down the list of your misinformation and false claims, let me guide you to the incontrovertible truth and facts.
Claim # 1: That at the core of the proposed amendment to the ArcelorMittal Liberia Mineral Development Agreement is the intent of “usurping Liberia’s sovereign rights over key facilities (rail and Port).”
The Fact: Despite having invested about USD $500m to rehabilitate the rail and port which was completely inoperable in 2007, ArcelorMittal Liberia welcomes a multi-user arrangement of the railway negotiated in the MDA being concluded. While it seeks to be the majority user, AML will operate the rail on a cost-sharing basis with no profit for itself. The Government of Liberia continues to have ownership of the facility and will decide which other parties can utilize this infrastructure. International auditors and GoL advisors as recently as February 2021 have verified that AML has spent approximately $500 million to rehabilitate the rail and port infrastructure.
Claim # 2: “It [ArcelorMittal Liberia] has paid very little in taxes.”
The Fact: ArcelorMittal Liberia has been amongst the highest taxpayers and contributors to Government revenue, evidenced by the consecutive annual awards it has received from Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) for being among the top taxpayers. Yet, you again significantly under-reported AML’s contributions in taxes for the fiscal periods 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 to be in the thousands, when in fact AML has paid millions. AML payments to Government in these years were: $ 8.7 million in 2016; $12.6 million in 2017, $13.1 million in 2018, $29.9 m in 2019 & $30.5 m in 2020. In recognition, as recently as yesterday (11 Dec 2021) AML has been awarded the highest tax contributor overall (Gold) for the fiscal year 2019/2020.
The Observer in this editorial shamelessly attempts to deceive the Liberian public using partial truths from the LEITI reports and cherry-picking a period when iron ore prices were depressed. All mining companies were incurring major losses during this period which had forced all others to cease operations in the region. AML was the only iron ore mining company operating in West Africa between 2016 and 2018 and was committed to ensuring that Liberians did not suffer an economic tragedy on top of the health catastrophe caused by Ebola. AML continued to pay its full royalties on time during this period and maintained operations with significant financial losses which were borne by its parent company. We plan to keep contributing more to Liberia revenue with higher volumes and value-added exports in our Phase 2.
Claim # 3: “ArcelorMittal is doing all it can to prevent or undermine efforts by mining consortiums HPX and Ivanhoe Liberia to actualize their operations, exporting iron ore from Guinea making use of the railway…”
The Fact: The AML Amendment has no conflicts with implementation of the bi-lateral agreement signed between the Governments of Guinea and Liberia in 2019. The Government of Liberia has not informed AML of the ‘Right to Access to Transport Services’ granted to HPX in August 2021; and GoL will have powers over AML or any other company to enforce multi-user access after the ratification of AML Third Amendment.
Now, the most outrageous and despairing aspect of your editorial is your desperate attempt to draw an analogy between your Big Boy 1 and Big Boy 2 scenario to the debate and passage of AML Third Amendment MDA currently before the Legislature. The spurious and manufactured bribery and corruption scheme you tried to attribute to the entire National Legislature and AML is an unfortunate insinuation for which your editorial miserably failed to even remotely present any evidence. This further exposed your unethical disposition, knowing very well that this scenario had absolutely nothing to do with ArcelorMittal Liberia deal.
We strongly object to such insinuation and its motive and seize this medium to categorically state that as a global steel industry leader, ArcelorMittal upholds the highest standards of integrity in all its actions, regardless of the economic or financial environment in which it operates.
It is sad and regretful to see a once heralded and nationally acclaimed media house decline in a cesspool of lies and blackmail. We wonder if this is probably out of gross incompetence or loss of moral ethics as you lead the paper down a path where it is becoming a known source for peddling untruths, half-baked truth, and falsehood.
Thank you for this opportunity to address your utter misinformation campaign, for the good of the public and in the interest of your cherished readers.
As always, ArcelorMittal Liberia values its relationship with the media and remains ever accessible for whatever information you may need to balance and enrich your media content.