MONROVIA-The rejection of Arcelor Mittal Mineral Development(MDA) by the national legislature on Monday for what they called the lack of some basic wordings, on the multi-rail access by the third party, legislative sources familiar with the deal have confided in The New Republic Newspaper that the deal will be sent back and will pass.
The MDA was ratified by the lower house and forwarded to the upper house for concurrence. However, the upper house said due to the changes made by the lower house before its ratification, they needed a special committee to review all the technical details before a final look. Following the revision by the committee, it was rejected.
“We rejected it because there are some fundamental things in the agreement which needed to be looked at. The multi-use of the railroad and that of the port,” one legislative source said.
The source added; “but many of the issues in the MDA have been agreed by Mittal anyway. I think they are proceeding well. The main issues here are the port and rail. Once the language can be changed in a proper way, it will pass.”
Another source from one of the counties where Mittal has operations said; “the rejection of this agreement puts the government in a bad squeeze. They were depending on the money from Mittal to support the budget; so they raised the budget up to almost seven hundred million.”
Said the source: “So, if that MDA remains as it is and if it is not passed into law, there will be a sharp decline in the budget and will lead to serious problems for the government. So, they are in a serious problem.”
Mittal has 25 years of MDA which was ratified by the administration of former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005. The agreement has nine more years to expire. But Mittal wants to invest over 800m with the construction of a plant that will be able to carry on more work which may go beyond the nine years left.
“I think I agree with Mittal a hundred percent here. As an investor, you need to make a profit. If your investment will be more than the number of years left, you need to increase it. That is the only way you will realize something,” one lawmaker on the review committee said.
“To be honest with you, Mittal has agreed on most of the concerns raised; jobs for affected communities, reconstruction of the old house left by LAMCO, scholarships(initially, they suggested that they will give money to residents to build their own houses or they will live outside of the construction areas- which we rejected. But at last, Mittal agreed to recondition the houses,” one said.
Two sources on the same committee made similar statements. “we think the agreement will come back to us. The Executive wants it to pass, but they need to know we have three distinct and coordinated branches. They cannot force us to do things against our will.”
“I think from an investment standpoint, Mittal means well for now. They have been depending on the Executive to do all the work for them. That has been a mistake on their part. We need to look at the interest of the country and that of Mittal as well. It would be wing, wing agreement; that all parties will be happy,” the source said.
The rejection of the MDA, many people attributed it to the influence of HPX and Solway. HPX has a concession in Guinea but wants to have access to the port of Buchanan for the shipment of its ore. Solway international is said to be owned by Aleksandr Bronstein, an Estonian millionaire. It has a concession in Liberia but is working on its MDA. Some time ago, A Russian publication Kommersant reported that the Chairman has strong ties with the inner circle of Russian President, Vladmir Putin, including Alexey Mordashov, a one-time owner of the failed Putu Mining company in Liberia.
One source said: “I am not aware of that(that Solway and HPX gave money). But lobbying is an internationally accepted practice. If Solway gave money, I am not aware. What my colleagues are saying, is there was nothing of that sort. Mittal to the best of my knowledge to has not given a dime to anyone here. We do know they have a lobbying firm. To tell you that they have given us cash is not true.”
But from what I can tell you, “that agreement will be sent back to us by the Executive and when it comes back, with some of what was needed in it, it will be passed. Mittal has been flexible as far as some of are concerned”.