Reports gathered by the NewDawn indicate that one of the world’s biggest steel companies operating here is at the verge of laying-off over 900 employees and contractors.
The decision by the management of Acelor Mittal or Mittal Steel will mainly affect ytje company’s operations within the Buchanan Port, Grand Bassa County and some operational sites in Nimba County.
Mittal Steel had earlier this year expressed fears that the Ebola outbreak would force it to delay the expansion of highly profitable iron ore mines in Liberia. It is unclear whether the delays are now resulting to the company’s reported decision to lay off 900 workers.
In August, some 15 companies on contracts to work on the ArcelorMittal expansion, declared a force majeure and reportedly evacuated their 645 employees. A force majeure declaration protects a company from legal action if it violates contractual obligations because of circumstances beyond its control. These circumstances include flood, nationalization or the outbreak of a disease.
Aditya Mittal’s Chief Financial Officer allayed fears in one-page press statement that existing mining operations in Liberia won't be immediately affected. Mittal's highly profitable Liberian unit produces five million tons of iron ore a year. The delayed expansion was projected to produce an extra 10 million tons, with first production by the end of 2015.
Mittal, at the time, said it was hoping to resume the expansion "at the earliest opportunity" but was unsure when that might be. The company's other 900 employees and contractors in Liberia have reportedly been "working to secure equipment and carrying out other critical activities related to logistics, engineering and procurement," the company said in August when the outbreak was still at its peak.
ArcelorMittal operates a Liberian rail line to the Atlantic port of Buchanan- the only existing way of carrying the ore mined at Mount Nimba to export markets. As things stand, any company that buys BHP's stake in Nimba would need to come to an agreement with Arcelor Mittal, Liberia and Guinea to use the railway.
Earlier, Mittal reported its first quarterly profit in two years, in August, swinging to a net profit of $52 million in the second quarter compared with a net loss of $780 million a year earlier. Arcelor Mittal recently decided to expand its West African iron ore operations, buying around half of the Mount Nimba deposit in Guinea, located 40 kilometers from its existing Liberian operations
When the press and public affairs office of the company was contacted via mobile phone, the phone rang endlessly up to press time.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor