Senate’s Verdict on ArcelorMittal Agreement Is a Test of Legislative Maturity Amidst Heightened Misinformation Campaign From Guinean Concessionaire

By Julius Jensen, II

The signing of the Amended Mineral Development Agreement by the Republic of Liberia and ArcelorMittal on September 10, 2021, paves the way for a significant expansion of the AML’s mining and logistical activities in Liberia and offers much hope for the revival of the nation’s economy as the proposed ramped up production of premium ore will generate thousands of new jobs, thus easing the chronic state of unemployment which stigmatizes its idled youths.

The expansion, under the terms of the agreement, encompasses processing, rail and port facilities, making it one of the largest mining operations in West Africa with an anticipated investment of $800 million. An inherent aspect of this expansion is the construction of a state-of-the-art concentration plant with the first concentrates scheduled for 2023, anting production up to 15 million tons.

This new development to be brought about after the passing of ArcelorMittal MDA, would unlock a wide range of opportunities nationally and locally, particularly, job creation for our youth. It is anticipated that the project will create at least 1000 direct jobs, 2000 construction-related jobs, and about 4000 indirect jobs. Provision of these jobs would trigger skill training at ArcelorMittal Vocational Training Center, which provides a two-year residential certification training in mechanical and electrical trades. As part of the expansion, ArcelorMittal has also launched a training and development program for high potential Liberian employees, affording them the opportunity of job training and in-depth knowledge of its mining operations. This phenomenon proffers a potential for greater involvement of Liberian employees in the executive operations of the company.

Further to the foregoing, under the terms of the Agreement, the Government of Liberia will receive an immediate $55million to reserve 15 million metric ton capacity for ArcelorMittal and a $10million signing bonus, for a total of $65million. Moreover, AML deal promises an increased amount of money for communities in Nimba, Bong, and Grand Bassa Counties, to address community development challenges in these areas. Despite the deliberate misinformation in the Liberian public that AML has not fulfilled its obligations to the communities where it operates, the company records show otherwise that the company has fully met with all of its financial commitments. Notwithstanding, AML recognized that there is a lot more to further deepen trust and mutually supportive relationship with locals in its concession area.

Even though ArcelorMittal invested about US$500 million in the restoration of the Yekepa-Buchanan rail and port, it ceded to the government of Liberia for other users to access these infrastructures. AML’s concession is demonstrated in the multi-user rail and port arrangement in the amended MDA. This provision allows for other potential users of the infrastructures, including HPX from neighboring Guinea, for instance, to access the system. ArcelorMittal-Liberia has indicated its support for this move, to trigger economic activities in the corridor between Guinea and Liberia along the route of the railway.

The submission of the Agreement by the Government of Liberia to the Legislature has heightened the smear campaign bent on directing the course of the debate, thus deepening the shady misinformation effort. This, many observers believe influenced the deeply flawed and misleading report of the lower House, insinuating to have amended provisions in the Agreement which granted a monopoly of rail and port to Arcelor; even though such provision does not exist in the MDA. Clearly, such a move was primarily designed to derail approval of the Agreement by the Liberian Senate.

There is too much at stake with respect to Liberia’s recovery and rebuilding that demands every concerted effort be made to ensure the failure of this plan. Fortunately, it appears that the Senate has already sensed this ploy by surrogates of sour losing would-be investors determined to deny this ambitious project from getting off the ground and has chosen to cautiously proceed.

In the event that the Senate fails to concur, and given what this nation stands to lose, it is inconceivable that lawmakers who have the best interest of this nation at heart would allow this to occur.  This would be devastating to the economic recovery of Liberia and would also upend the goals of the Pro-Poor Agenda to relinquish abject poverty in this country, and we cannot afford this.

In this regard, I call on the Senate to save the threat of losing this glorious opportunity to lies and misinformation, with the sole purpose of profiteering and business interest. The silent majority of this country are watching, and posterity will judge whatever action is taken on this deal.

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