Citizens of Nimba County are calling for the rejection of the proposed amendment of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between the Liberian Government and ArcelorMittal Liberia which is currently before the House of Representatives for ratification.
The position of the citizens of Nimba County was contained in a petition presented to the National Legislature on Thursday, December 2, 2021
“Now, .therefore, we the undersigned, acting for and on behalf of various Nimba civil society organizations, ordinary citizens, and stakeholders residing in Nimba County, other parts of Liberia and the diaspora do hereby petition the National Legislature to reject the proposed amendment to the MDA until the following conditions, are met, or sufficient and legally binding commitments are made by the Concessionaire” the Petition indicated.
Reading the petition on behalf of the group at the Capitol Building on Thursday, the spokesperson of the disabled community in Nimba County, Gabriel Soh said they categorically and unequivocally denounce, reject, object to and resist any extension of the Mineral Development Agreement with ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) beyond its 25-year contract term which ends 2034 due to noncompliance of AML with the current terms and condition of the MDA.
Mr. Soh said, considering the fiscal constraints facing the people of Liberia, the Government should remove all tax and import exemptions and privileges that are not directly connected to the development of new mining sites, and that the Concessionaire should provide a full account of the import duty requirements outlined in Article 3 of the Second Amendment of 2013.
He noted that the new proposal of amendment to the MDA remains ambiguous, creating loopholes that ArcelorMittal holdings will use to evade the terms of its obligations and control over the national assets of the country.
According to him, “Pursuant to Article_8 of the MDA, the AML should comply with the following” That the annual financial assistance to the University of Liberia as specified in Article 11 of the MDA be increased from Fifty thousand United States dollars (US$50,000) to five hundred thousand United States Dollars (US$5OO, OOO) with thirty percent (30%) of the latter amount given to Nimba county’ University College (NCUC) to support its science and Engineering education”.
He further stressed the need for the concessionaire to increase the amount allocated for Advanced Scholarship Fund for qualified Liberians as enshrined in Article 9 of the MDA from two hundred thousand United States dollars (US$200,000) to five Hundred thousand United States dollars (US$500,000) per annum with, thirty percent (30%) awarded to qualified students from Nimba fifteen percent (15%) to qualified students from Grand Bassa and five percent (5%) to qualified students from Bong counties respectively.
The citizens also want the Legislature to reject the concessionaire’s request to increase mineral extraction to fifteen million tons per year and subsequently to thirty million metric tons per year in the interest of inter-generational equity.
They, in the petition indicated that the ownership of unmovable facilities/assets such as railroad, port, harbor, and other fixed assets, should not be transferred to, or made the subject of ownership by the concessionaire in any current or amendment of the MDA.
Soh furthered that, without prejudice to the conditions set forth in their petition and the current production limit of five million metric tons per year additional iron ore output and/or shipment shall increase the Social Development Fund (SDF) contribution to Nimba, Bassa and Bong counties by US$0.875 per ton to be distributed among the three counties as Nimba County US$0.438 per ton or 50%, Grand Bassa County US$0.292 per ton or 33.33% and Bong County US$0.146 per ton or 16.67%
The group wants the concessionaire to be compelled to fully adhere to all the terms and conditions of the Memorandum of Understanding for corporate social responsibility that was agreed as part of the second amendment to the MDA in 2013.
“That the Concessionaire, in compliance with Article 10 of the MDA, construct a modem hospital fully equipped with modem health equipment and qualified medical professionals and other healthcare workers to provide medical treatment for employees and their dependents in the concession Area” the petition averred.
It also called for the safety and wellbeing of residents of adjacent communities, noting that the Concessionaire should establish a waste and pollution control and management system to avoid surface and groundwater contamination, and safe drinking water in communities where the water supply is already compromised.
Receiving the petition on behalf of the Legislature, the House of Representatives committee chairman on Claims and Petition and Nimba County district #4 Representative, Gunpue Kargon assured the citizens of Nimba County that their concerns will be given key consideration.