Senator Koung Disappointed in Solway -Decries Mishandling of Employees Welfare

MONROVIA – One of the senators of Nimba County has expressed utter disappointment in the management of Solway Liberia for the manner and form in which the company is handling the welfare of its Liberian employees.

Expressing his disappointment in the steel company when he spoke recently via phone during an interview with community radio stations in Nimba County, Senator Jeremiah Kpan Koung called on his people to be careful with how they handle the issue of Solway Mining.

His comments came as he responded to a publication that listed him as one of the Nimba lawmakers who is said to be receiving money from Solway to act against the rectification of the ArcelorMittal-Liberia 3rd Mineral Development Agreement (MDA).

“Anybody is welcome to write anything about me and I don’t care because I was elected by the people of Nimba County before becoming Senator for Liberia, and as that, I have to speak for the people of Nimba first,” he asserted.

The senator explained that while visiting Solway operational areas recently, he encountered a group of zealous residents of the community who were chanting and singing praises for Solway being in their interest.

“I visited Solway and I saw some citizens in T-Shirts singing that Solway was good to them as they are farming for them. I told them to kindly wait small because when a man is courting a girl, he does all to get the girl,” Senator Koung stated.

The senator was clear in his interview that what he observed at Solway is not indicative of any serious mining investor who has a good intention to help develop and transform the local community.

As reported by a number of news outlets in recent weeks, Senator Koung also confirmed that Solway was constructing “mud houses” as dwelling and workplaces for Liberians working at its exploration camp.

“I will be clear here; what I personally saw at Solway, I was not happy. If Solway was a multimillion dollar company, it would not start by building mud houses or container homes for those that are working there,” the Nimba County lawmaker lamented.

Not only did Senator Koung expose Solway’s provision of unfit living places for its workers, he also disclosed that he was informed that Liberians working with the company have no contractual agreements and do not take pay.

“I have also been receiving a lot of complaints from our citizens there that some of them worked without a contract. For example, a lady called me that she worked and Solway never paid her; so I intervened and she was paid,” Senator Koung said, noting that he has asked other workers with similar situation to document their complaints against the company, which would strengthen him to invite Solway to show cause for ill-treating its Liberian workers.

“Though we have not seen an MDA for Solway yet, if there comes an MDA and nothing good is there for Nimba, we will not go with it because the interest of Nimba comes first,” the senator added.

“If Solway is a Liberian company, and it doesn’t live up to the task of providing the just benefits to our citizens in Nimba, trust me, we will not go for it” he warned.

Solway Mining and its Chaotic History in Liberia

Back in 2020, the people of Blei and Sehyi Kodoo districts in Nimba County agreed to allow Solway Mining Incorporated to explore for iron-ore deposits in their territory in the Nimba mountain range.

The agreement came after massive pressure from top officials of government including local county leaders who made the communities abandon the conservation management plan to grant Solway access to their community-managed forests in exchange for jobs and funding for health and education.

As reported months ago by the international news outlet Mongabay, the villagers complained that promises for which they have given out their land have not been kept.  And they are making considerations to withdraw from the deal with Solway and ask the company to leave.

They say Solway has failed to provide schools and hospitals and give the communities what they are entitled to.

Koung wants AML to do more

Meanwhile, the Nimba senator says he would like to see ArcelorMittal-Liberia hiring youths for temporary employment in Gbarpa, Zolowe, and other affected communities.

Senator Koung praised ArcelorMittal for doing its best but expressed reservation that the global steel giant must do more in the three affected counties to warrant his vote for the passage of its 3rd Mineral Development Agreement.

“AML is trying and the moment they keep on doing those things like enrolling 60% of students at the Vocational Training Academy in Yekepa from the affected counties (Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa), and the balance 40% from other parts of Liberia; as well as providing better homes, I will be one of the first senators to vote for the passing of ArcelorMittal-Liberia MDA,” Koung stated emphatically.

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