EDITORIAL

The need to ratify the AML deal

FOR SOME TIME now there has been some dark clouds hanging over the much expected signing of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) after AML announced that its additional investment in the mining sector will see it pumping in about a billion dollar to expand its operations which of course will in no small way spur the national economy.

ORDINARILY, GIVEN THE state of the economy occasioned by the lack of foreign direct investment in the similar category of AML and the advent of the COVID 19 pandemic that has adversely impacted the revenue generating capacity of the country and also disrupted major economic activities in the country, it would have been thoughtful for the government to seize the rare opportunities presented by the AML’s desire to expand its operations thereby impacting the economy positively.

HOWEVER, THE NATIONwas taken aback that when the Executive Branch of Government raised the hope of the deal going through by submitting it to the National Legislature for ratification, a disappointing shock came back from the lawmakers objecting to the deal when they called for the review of the entire concession agreement, citing reasons that it did not meet the expectation of the country and its people, especially in the communities where AML has been operating.

GRANTED THAT MEMBERS of the House of Representatives might have acted in the interest of the Liberian people, especially the mineral producing counties where AML currently operates, but from all indications we are of the fervent convictions that the government in its entirety has not been sincere in dealing with the MDA and resolving all outstanding issues that may exist.

OUR STANCE IS premised on the fact that government has not taken definite position on the status of Solway Mining Company, another company operating in the same area AML was allocated to do business. What was even more bizarre was the statement attributed to President George Manneh Weah that both concessions, AML and Solway, should enter into a dialogue and resolve the dispute existing between them. Really! So the government is shifting the responsibility of resolving this serious issue to the two contenders that are making claims over an operational terrain.

SECONDLY, WITHOUT ANY recourse to the existing agreement with AML, the initiated negotiation with the High Power Exchange(HPX) for the use of the multi-user agreement that will see HPX making full use of the rail between Yekepa and Buchanan to export its iron ore for shipment through the Buchanan Seaport.

GIVEN THE ABOVEstands of state actors,  we frown on the indecisive posture of the government that is  not only meant to frustrate AML by violating the binding agreements anchored on international best practice, but that is also intended to obstruct the many gains the third MDA deal brings on the table for Liberians. On so many fronts, the government has deliberately provoked AML to seek the legal option as is provided in the concession. Notwithstanding, the company has demonstrated patience and commitment to be tolerant because it has shown that it is not only a corporate institution but a caring partner in the cause of the Liberian people.

IT IS IN this vein that we urged the government to as soon as possible set into motion the mechanism to ratify the MDA agreement and avoid further delay, for doing so will seriously be hampering the country and its future. It is important to state here that AML has not been arrogant to claim that it has been 100% perfect in fulfilling all provisions on its side of the bargain but has accepted its deficiency and have since been correcting some of them while bringing more opportunities on board to reflect its ambition to expand operations. What more can it do?

WE CANNOT CLOSE our position on this very important national issue without enumerating some of the achievements of AML since its inception in Liberia. It was be stated that in the first place if the MDA is signed, revenue accruable annually will increase from $30m-40 to $75m, the empowerment of Liberians in skill acquisition should not be overemphasized in terms of local training in various disciplines and some foreign scholarships to Liberians, among many other benefits.

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