More Projects for ArcelorMittal Liberia Communities

BUCHANAN-ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) and the county authorities of Bong, Nimba, and Grand Bassa are scaling up implementation of community development projects with the official start of the second year of implementation of the Community Development Fund (CDF).

Under the CDF, 20% of AML’s County Social Development Fund contribution to the three counties is withheld by the company to undertake direct community development in communities close to its mining operations.

The communities decide on projects they want, and an independent contractor is vetted, as AML supervises progress and disburses payments to the contractors.

Speaking at the launch of year two of the CDF in Gbarnga, Bong County recently, Nimba County District 8 Lawmaker, Larry Younquoi warned strongly against the use of the Community Development Funds by county officials for purposes other than implementing projects in communities directly affected by the ArcelorMittal’s operations.

Rep. Younquoi said using the funds on extra activities or employing unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks in the implementation of projects in beneficiary communities is wrong and must stop. He said the money is for the affected communities and must be used to benefit them to prevent agitation towards the company the company.

“Let the government leave this 20% with the company to use it for the people who are directly affected by the operation of the company.”

AML’s Head of Government and Community Relations Marcus Wleh said the company and the county stakeholders have agreed on several strategies to effectively manage the funds, using lessons of the past to ensure smooth implementation of the projects.

According to Wleh, this year’s 20% package contains $840,000 for the three counties and will go towards projects in communities of impact, otherwise known as affected communities. He said since the launch of the CDF [previous CSDF with revised governance model], at least 10 projects have kicked off in Nimba, and Bong, and projects for Grand Bassa are expected to commence soon.

However, projects that were not completed in year one will be brought forward to year two, for completion, while those decided upon during the district sittings are still pending, awaiting approval by the Community Approval Committee (CAC), for implementation.

Although AML withholds the 20% for payment towards projects, Mr. Wleh said the projects are implemented by the counties themselves.

In terms of delay in the implementation of projects during the pilot stage, Mr. Wleh said there were issues of compliance and AML wanted to ensure that the funds were used properly for the benefit of the people in the affected communities.

Also, at the launch event were lawmakers and superintendents of the three affected counties, representatives of the Ministries of Mines and Internal Affairs, as well as senior staff of ArcelorMittal Liberia.

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