Media executive Praises ArcelorMittal for Example of Responsible Company in Liberia

MONROVIA – Upon the cessation of war and hostilities in Liberia, from 2003 up to 2013 before the Ebola outbreak, Liberia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth accelerated to its post-war peak reaching 8.7 percent.

The Liberian economy grew steadily from 2003 but experienced a temporary slowdown from the global financial crisis, though a strengthening agricultural sector led by rubber and timber exports increased growth to 5.1% in 2010 and an expected 7.3% in 2011, and almost 9 percent in 2013, making Liberia one of the 20 fastest growing economies in the world.

Key in all of this post-war economic success has been driven by the Liberian mining sector led by its leading player – ArcelorMittal.

In 2005, ArcelorMittal Liberia signed the first Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) which allowed the company to begin mining operations in Yekepa, Nimba County, and Buchanan, Grand Bassa county concessions paving the way for socio-economic regeneration and growth of local communities throughout Liberia.

Since then, ArcelorMittal has for over the period of 16 years invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Liberian infrastructure including rail, port, housing, and others, alongside developing and strengthening internal corporate responsibility, governance and operational structure.

 AML has built and strengthened partnerships with relevant industry stakeholders through proactive engagement and internalized best practices on the environment, workplace, health, safety, and good corporate governance as a responsible business firm.

While this may have been done in complete stillness, for which it may not have gotten the attention of many Liberians home and abroad, the fact remains that the steel giant is one of Liberia’s outstanding post-war economic recovery partners with a demonstrated record of responsible business conduct.

This was recently rebounded by a media executive and top entertainer Bernard Blue Benson, popularly known as DJ Blue in a “truth crushed to earth shall rise again” post on Facebook.

In his Facebook post the respected entertainer and owner of popular radio Hott FM, set ArcelorMittal’s MDA as a standard for new MDA negotiations to follow.

“Look Nobody Stupid here!!” he wrote continuing “ArcelorMittal is investing over $500 Million on the railway to transport their ore to the port of Buchanan while Western Cluster gets a FREE RIDE”.

“The Western Cluster ‘deal’ looks like a fiasco”, according to him.

Blue was making reference to the $ US500 million AML invested to make the railway between Buchanan and Yekepa operable after it was totally destroyed, looted, and in some instances vandalized during and after the Liberia civil war.

The media executive contends further, “in this age when our people are in desperate need of basic social amenities like hospitals, roads, and improved living conditions, Western Cluster is getting a slap on the wrist and a jolly ride in terms of their economic investment in the infrastructural development of the counties in which they operate”.

Then he adds that “by contrast, ArcelorMittal, with similar operations in Nimba and other counties has commenced several social impact projects including the construction of roads, hospitals, schools, railway, plus over several millions of dollars of direct investment in the lives of the people in Nimba, Bong, Bassa, and other adjacent counties.”

In the face of the constant singling out of ArcelorMittal for challenges faced by those in its operational areas despite the payment of millions in county social development, Barnard Blue Benson wonders why the new Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) of Western Cluster cannot be published “for us to know what our people in Bomi, Cape Mount and adjacent counties stand to benefit”.

“Why can’t they build a railway, a pier, and a road from Bomi to Cape Mount which will ease the transport of the ores and also bring an improved development to the counties? What are their social impact programs for Bomi and Cape Mount?” the post reads.

What the radio personality may have forgotten in his post is the fact that in the new ArcelorMittal Mineral Development Agreement which was unilaterally rejected by members of the House of Representatives, ArcelorMittal commits to invest an additional $US200 million to additionally strengthen the capacity of the rail and the Buchanan port facilities ,and commits to increasing its county social development fund payment to US$3.5 million to Nimba, Grand Bassa, and Bong counties, for local development purposes.

Even though the ArcelorMittal Third Mineral Development Agreement calls for a multi-user arrangement for rail and port facilities and will be one of the largest mining projects in West Africa with approximately $1 billion capital investment, the House rejected this, for what many observers believed to be an inducement from a company investing and to operate in Guinea.

It is this very House of Representatives under whose watchful eyes Western Cluster’s MDA is abandoned and sadly given permission to transport iron ore by road with no plan to rehabilitate the rail from Tubmanburg to Monrovia.

Recently, Western Cluster Limited and its parent company-Vedanta broke ground in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, and resumed mining operations in Liberia’s Western Region.

Gesler E. Murray, Minister, Ministry of Mines and Energy said he was elated to see the resumption of operations by Western Cluster, following decade-long negotiations which they say were stalled by the outbreak of Ebola and a slump in the price of iron ore globally.

According to Minister Murray, the ore mined by Western Cluster from these three brownfields will be transported via road to the Freeport of Monrovia for shipment due to complete damage to the train track between Bomi County and Monrovia.

Said Murray: “the ore will be transported by trucks because the rail is completely damaged”.

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