ArcelorMittal–Liberia mining operation is confronted with an ongoing challenge, the relentless theft of rail materials, which had caused considerable financial losses and disruptions to the company’s operations.
The story of ArcelorMittal Liberia’s struggle against this menace began with the discovery of the vast iron ore deposits in Liberia. With the company’s investments, the once-remote area had been transformed into a hub of mining and transportation, thanks to the rail network that crisscrossed Grand Bassa, Bong and Nimba Counties.
This rail, however, has proven to be a tempting target for opportunistic thieves who regularly make away with essential rail materials often leading to derailments.
Over the years, the company had invested heavily in installing and maintaining the rail infrastructure, only to see its rail materials stolen repeatedly.
It isn’t just about the financial loss; it was about the disruption it caused to both the local and international supply chains, impacting the livelihoods of the communities along the rail lines.
To combat this ongoing issue, Vaanii Kiazolu the Community Relations Manager of ArcelorMittal–Liberia has been working with local communities with passion and determination to bridge the gap between ArcelorMittal Liberia and the local communities, fostering a spirit of cooperation and protection for the company.
Vaanii recently spoke with a team of reports and encouraged the citizens living along the rail lines to join hands in protecting the rail materials and, in turn, safeguard the company’s investment.
He emphasized the importance of this not only for the company but for the future investment in Liberia as a whole. His vision was to create a sense of ownership among the local communities, making them the protectors of the rails.
Said Kiazolu, “From Bassa to Bong, and Nimba, we just want to talk to our people to make sure and give the necessary support in their own way to make sure that in term of safety along the rail, safeguarding the company’s assets,” Vaanii said.
He recognized that one of the biggest challenges was the ongoing theft of rail materials as the company worked to rehabilitate the rail network.
“So we also want to encourage them that if you continue to remove the rail materials and these derailments continue to take place, it also affects the economy, not just locally but nationally,” he continued, highlighting the far-reaching consequences of rail material theft.
“It affects our production capacity. Every day that rail is closed, there is a huge amount that is lost due to that derailment,” Vaanii explained, underlining the critical role the rail played in the company’s operations.
He concluded by saying, “So we just want to encourage our people that look, this rail today, if this company is not here… I can tell anybody now that AML is the biggest investor in Liberia and has the biggest workforce beside the government compared to any other corporation or company in this country. So we just want to encourage them that the more we all protect the asset and protect the business as a people, the more we will benefit.”
Under AML’s leadership, community engagement initiatives along the rail will now seek to forster stronger partnerships with residents to provide education about the significance of the rail infrastructure and how its theft affected their own lives.
Together with ArcelorMittal Liberia, they established community watch groups to deter thieves and ensure the security of the rail network.
As time goes by, the local communities with reasonably take pride in being the guardians of the rails. Incidents of rail material theft could decrease significantly, and the rail network become more reliable.
ArcelorMittal Liberia’s investment would then become safer than ever, and the local communities began to see the benefits of a strong and thriving partnership through jobs and income.
Theis story of ArcelorMittal Liberia’s struggle against rail material theft serves as an inspiring example of how a company, through community engagement and cooperation, can overcome the challenges posed by theft and safeguard its investments for the betterment of all stakeholders.