Citizens of Nimba County are upset over what seems lack of interest by the mining company ArcelorMittal to re-locate the George W. Harley Hospital in Sanniquellie and implement the Ganta-Yekepa road project, respectively in Nimba.
A mineral development agreement signed between the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal does not include said projects, but a group of youth calling themselves Concerned Nimbaians engaged the company with a 23-count petition to consider the two projects.
The Management of ArcelorMittal subsequently agreed to pave the Ganta-Yekepa road re-locate the G.W. Harley Hospital. However, since that commitment not much has been done by the company to take the projects off the ground, thus, dashing citizens’ hope.
A group of aggrieved citizens, who spoke to our Nimba County correspondent, complained that even when the ArcelorMittal train transporting ore to the Port of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County passes thru Sanniquellie, normal work at the G.W. Harley Hospital comes to a momentary standstill due to heavy vibration from the rail, posing risk to patients’ lives.
But the head of the Nimba County Health Team Doctor Collins S. Bowah said no patient has been directly affected by vibration from the train. The delay in the implementation of the Ganta-Yekepa road is impeding free movement of people from Ganta to Yekepa, Karnplay and along the borders with neighboring Guinea and Ivory Coast.
At a recent press conference held in the conference hall of the Administration Building in Sanniquellie, Communication Director Mrs. Hester Baker-Pearson disclosed the company has decided to operate another mountain in Nimba.
She said ArcelorMittal will mine the Gangra Mountain in Nimba County, which was part of its plan from the onset, disclosing that the company obtained license to operate Gangra Mountain in 2005 when it signed the mineral development agreement with the Government of Liberia.
Madam Baker-Pearson noted that phase two of the company operations was suspended due to the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the global drop in iron ore price margins, which has threatened the competitive viability and sustainability of the operation in Liberia.
The Gangra Mountain work will include consultants on environmental and social impact assessment to gain approval of key permits, which are required for a successful project. Communication Director Baker-Pearson said the project team has been assembled following modest level of recruitment of both expatriates and Liberians, and an engineering consultancy has been engaged to support civil engineering and geotechnical designs for road and bridge construction, mine infrastructure, waste drainage and sediment controls to keep the waterways healthy.
She said the goal is to ensuring Gangra becomes operational thru a small concentration. Several communities in Yekepa affected by the company’s operation are said to lack safe-drinking water, health facilities, school and road network, among others.
However, during the press conference, Nimba County Superintendent Fong Zuagele commended ArcelorMittal for the level of development carried out in the county. Superintendent Zuagele reminded citizens that the company has paid all social development funds as contained in the agreement.
By Franklin Doloquee, Nimba-Editing by Jonathan Browne