Freeman calls for dialogue In Mittal MDA

MONROVIA-Opposition politician Freeman Freeman has differed with members of the legislature for rejecting the third mineral development Development Agreement for Arcelor Mittal.

In a live Facebook broadcast late Monday, Mr. Freeman who is the political leader of the Movement for Progressive Change said he disagrees with the manner in which the House has treated the agreement

“If there are clauses in the current MDA not yet handled by ArcelorMittal, the Legislature could have dialogued with the concession, knowing that Liberia is not the only country with natural resources,” he said.

This means many countries with natural resources are competing for investment to harness those resources for the good of their people.

Mr. Freeman warned, if Liberia continues to manage its investment climate in such a way as done by the lower House towards ArcelorMittal’s investment, this could potentially scare away other investors and send out negative signals to international investors.

According to him, such treatment of investors resulted to Firestone Rubber Plantation reducing its investment in Liberia.

Mr. Freeman said why he is not for or against ArcelorMittal, he was appealing to the Legislature to handle its differences in the committee room to preserve the country’s investment profile.

ArcelorMittal and the Government of Liberia spent over a year negotiating an amendment to the current Agreement between the two parties. Once ratified, ArcelorMittal would increase its investment portfolio in Liberia from 1.7 billion to 2.7 billion. This means, additional US$1 billion investment would be made for the expansion of its operations in Liberia.

However, efforts to proceed with the ratification of the amended agreement encountered roadblock, many believe, stemmed from maneuvering of the Guinean-based mineral exploration company, Ivanhoe, a subsidiary of HPX.  HPX has contended that even though ArcelorMittal spent US$500 million to rehabilitate the rail and port, they cannot be the operator of the rail while they (HPX) join the multi-user arrangement provided in the amended MDA. Moreover, HPX is also contending to build the capacity of the rail ahead of the Liberian-based ArcelorMittal.

Many observers believe that the long-running clamor and polarization of the Arcelormittal amended agreement was surreptitiously instigated by surrogates of HPX to cast doubt and aspersion on the AML deal, thus, stimulating sentiments for its rejection.

This suspicion was seemingly confirmed when the lower House on March 29, 2022 met in an emergency Executive session on a one-item agenda to return Arcelormittal amended agreement to the Executive for renegotiation. Even more interesting was that HPX and the Government of Liberia entered into a secret framework agreement on rail and port two days prior to the lower House emergency session which returned Arcelormittal deal.

These unconventional activities were already drawing significant public interest and concerns before the surfacing a receipt purportedly signed by Speaker Bhofal Chambers indicating payment of US$500,000 for Legislative engagement, allegedly from Ivanhoe, HPX.

Mr. Simeon Freemen’s statement comes as a caution to all public actors in this ArcelorMittal – HPX saga to reconsider the national interest of the country above all other personal financial gains and do the right thing. Their actions are dragging Liberia deeper into poverty by denying Liberians the 3000 thousand jobs and million of dollars in revenue stipulated in the Arcelormittal deal.

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