Executive Chairman, Arcelor Mittal Global
Good afternoon everyone.
Your Excellency, Mr George Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia
Honorable Members of the Legislature, Members of the Cabinet,
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted to be here in Liberia on what is an important day for us all.
It is the first time I have had the opportunity to visit Liberia since the Covid pandemic began. Covid has left no country untouched and I know also it has been a tough time for Liberia and your people. As I understand the country has done a great job to try to stop the spread and cases are now much lower – I very much hope that you sustain this.
I am here today because ArcelorMittal has signed an agreement with the Government of Liberia that will see us stay in the country for at least another 25 years, committing to one of the largest and most important mining projects in West Africa.
Firstly, I must thank the President and his team for their commitment to reach agreement. These types of negotiations are always tough, but I really admire the hard-working spirit of your team.
This period of negotiation has also enabled us to know each other better, deepening our relationship and I believe building further trust. This is an excellent foundation as we start this new phase that will see us invest an additional US$800 million in the country – taking our total investment to US$2.5 billion.
ArcelorMittal first came to Liberia in 2005. We were in fact the first public international company to enter the country after years of unrest.
We promised to bring mining back to Liberia and we delivered on that promise.
But first we had to invest significantly in the physical and social infrastructure critical to help Liberia back on a path of economic development. We built roads and railways, we helped set up schools and hospitals – and slowly but surely mining in Liberia came back to life.
It was a huge milestone when in 2011 we shipped the first iron ore from Liberia in 20 years. I remember that day very clearly.
It was a celebration of more than just the re-start of mining operations In re-establishing mining in the country, we also helped the country rebuild – and being part of that journey has been extremely rewarding for all of us I am sure.
ArcelorMittal has remained one of Liberia’s largest investors for 16 years. We have I believe demonstrated that we are a stable, reliable and strategic investor. We are proud of the contribution we have made to the country and its people.
I am really delighted that we will now have the opportunity to build on this already deep foundation through this new agreement.
Our commitment is very strong. We will be expanding our mining operations – in the first phase tripling our current production levels to 15 million tonnes a year.
We are also exploring the potential to go beyond that – up to 30 million tonnes a year. The product will also be higher quality and to deliver this premium quality we will be constructing a new concentration plant – with the first concentrate expected in late 2023.
To deliver on this potential we will again need to enhance the infrastructure – for example increasing the capacity of the rail link connecting Tokadeh with Buchanan, as well as with the port of Buchanan.
It is a very ambitious plan and one that we at ArcelorMittal are very excited about. But, ultimately, we hope that it is the people of Liberia that will benefit most from this agreement.
The expansion of our operations is expected to generate thousands of jobs for the local population during the construction and operating phases.
More than 2000 jobs will be created during the construction phase and the vast majority of these roles will of course be for Liberian citizens. Once up and running, an additional 1000 jobs for Liberian citizens will be generated.
Since arriving in the country ArcelorMittal has been helping to educate and train people for the specific skills needed for the mining sector. We are now going to expand our Vocational Training Centre so that we can enhance the training we are able to provide to the Liberian people.
One of the benefits of ArcelorMittal as a global company is that our people have the chance to enhance their knowledge and skill set through working in different parts of the group. We have established a new programme for high potential Liberian employees and talented graduates who will be offered the opportunity to work in some of our other major mining operations in Brazil and Canada. They will then be able to bring this knowledge back home to Liberia.
As Chairman of the company, I am delighted that we can make this contribution to the country and your people. After 16 years here we really do see ourselves as a partner for Liberia. We have been through some tough times together. Ebola is the most obvious example. That was a terrible time for your country but you came through it with a remarkable display of strength and fortitude. We stood beside you through that period when many others shut down their operations and took their people out. Tough though those times were I believe that it demonstrated to you that ArcelorMittal is a company that is here in good times and bad.
And, I am confident, with this new agreement there are good times ahead. It is a very large project and to succeed we will need the support and cooperation of all stakeholders. But the journey we have experienced in Liberia over the past sixteen years, makes me confident we will be able to achieve that if we work openly and honestly together with a relationship based on transparency and trust.
Let me just thank again everyone who has worked so hard to enable us to reach this new milestone. I hope that the fact we have reached this agreement will also send a positive signal to the world that Liberia is a stable place for international investment. I must also say a special thanks to all the employees of ArcelorMittal Liberia who have made the operation a success and have laid the foundations for this next phase.
Working together I am sure we will make it a success we can all be proud of.