“ArcelorMittal Agreement Never Rejected” -Says Pro-Tempore Chie

The President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate Albert Chie says the USD1 Billion 3rd ArcelorMittal Mineral Development Agreement has never been rejected by the National Legislature. Making the clarification when he addressed the 22nd Day Sitting, 5th Session of the 54th Legislature, Pro-Tempore Chie said the ArcelorMittal Mineral Development Agreement is still on the agenda of the Senate for deliberation, and not rejected as is being widely speculated.

Clarifying further during a subsequent press briefing after the Tuesday May 17, 2022 Opening Session, Senator Chie informed the media that the Senate is unaware about reports circulating that the House of Representatives sent the ArcelorMittal amended agreement back to President George M. Weah.

Despite the House of Representatives’ shocking and abrupt decision to send back the agreement to the Executive, Pro-Tempore Chie in his official address to senators in Chambers on Tuesday noted that the senate still anticipates a conference to resolve key issues in the US$1 Billion deal with the Executive.

Pro-Tempore added that the Senate will remind members of the House of Representatives of its communication of February 15, 2022 which contains reasons for which the senate failed to concur with the version of the ArcelorMittal deal which was passed by members of the lower House of the Legislature.

“On February 15, 2022 the senate communicated with the House of Representatives of its reservation to concur with the House’s gross bill number 46 entitled: “Amendment Number Three to the Mineral Development Agreement between the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal and ArcelorMittal Holding AG, and transmitted the names of members of the senate’s conference committee to harmonize the disparities and the inputs of each chamber,” Pro-Tempore Chie noted.

According to him, the Liberian senate “has been awaiting the names of members of the conference committee on the side of the HOR until we adjoined for the first constituency break”.

The Pro-temp added that it is therefore necessary to communicate with the Honorable House of Representatives to kindly remind them to transmit the names of its conference committee members to resolve the variance in the third amendment.

This latest statement by the leader of the Senate deals a blow to members of the House who surprised the public by convening an emergency Executive Session on March 29, 2022, just a day before the House’s closure for Easter break, only to arbitrarily send back the AML deal to the executive for “renegotiation”, without consultation with the Senate.

Even though Liberia runs a bicameral legislative system of two Houses with equal powers, the lower House has since justified its decision with an ambiguous conclusion that the deal is “monopolistic of Liberia’s assets”. This justification has since been dismissed by experts and street bureaucrats, citing Article 3 of the ArcelorMittal 3rd Amended Mineral Development Agreement which establishes “multi-User arrangement” for the Yekepa-Buchanan railway and the iron ore port in Buchanan City.

The abrupt decision by the House to send back the AML deal stunned many; particularly, that the House had agreed to go to conference with the senate to resolve outstanding issues in the deal for which each chamber had proffered alternative perspectives.

Information gathered by this paper indicates that Speaker Bhofal Chambers even constituted a conference committee and named Representative Clarence Massaquoi of Lofa County as Chairman.

Accordingly, the House had earlier made heavy amendments to the AML deal which favored Guinean concessionaire HPX, and Russia-funded mining conglomerate Solway, relative to port, railway, and the disputed mining areas in Nimba County.

The senate however refused to accept such amendments.

A source close to the leadership of the Liberian Senate hinted that Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor and Pro-temp Chie are “very astonished” over the manner and form in which the House of Representatives has been handling the AML Deal.

The senate leaders according to the source believe it was total “lack of respect” that the House didn’t even hold prior consultations with the senate or inform the body of its decision to send back the deal to the Executive.

Several prominent Liberians including the Movement for Progressive Change Political leader and businessman, Simeon Freeman, have expressed displeasure over how the first major investment under the CDC administration is being mishandled.

Recently, the European Union Ambassador to Liberia warned of an imminent economic danger if the government fails to reach an agreement on ArcelorMittal’s US$ 1 billion investment plan.

Ambassador Laurent Delahousse told local radio Okay FM that if ArcelorMittal did not realize its dream of bringing the needed investment to the country, it would be “detrimental for the people of Liberia”. He said despite “local politics” and “competition from other mining companies”, a common ground must be found to enable the AML to bring the needed investment promise of more than 2000 new jobs. Other prominent voices of concern on the economic and social benefits of the ArcelorMittal deal also include the United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy.

Comments are closed.