The world’s leading steel and mining company ArcelorMittal has been listing its accomplishments in Liberia over the past 15 years of its operations when it recommitted to a billion-dollar investment in 2006 during former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s first term up to the current administration of President George Manneh Weah.
In a dispatch, ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) recalled that it made a strong statement to the markets and the world when it decided to recommit to a billion-dollar investment, noting that the action constituted a vote of confidence in the country’s newly elected democratic leadership and was a key milestone that opened the door for private investment to support Liberia’s recovery.
Hiring by AML and its contractors like Odebrecht began in 2007 and by 2008, some 3,000 local people were employed both directly and indirectly through construction projects.
This number surged again in 2013 with the Phase 2 construction that increased the number of local jobs on the concession to 5,000. With the suspension of construction due to Ebola force majeure by contractors, AML said these numbers dropped in 2015, but have now increased to approximately 3,500 direct and indirect jobs in 2021 from AML operations alone.
AML said Liberians currently hold 66% of the senior management positions at ArcelorMittal Liberia, noting that this exceeds the 50% of senior management minimum required by the mineral development agreement (MDA). Over 96% of all positions are held by Liberians, it added.
According to the dispatch, AML reopened two hospitals in Yekepa, Nimba County, and Buchanan, Grand Bassa to provide medical care to both employees and local residents and undertook an extensive anti-malaria campaign in partnership with USAID.
It continued that AML reopened two elementary schools and one high school in Yekepa, providing education both to ArcelorMittal employees’ children as well as those from the surrounding communities. Employees in Buchanan are reimbursed for their children’s school tuition fees, the AML dispatch said.
In spite of challenges due to a global financial crisis in 2008, AML recalled that it remained committed to the project in Liberia by rehabilitating the rail and port infrastructure and constructing new mine facilities at Tokadeh allowing a restart of iron ore exports from Liberia in 2011, which was the first shipment of ore from the country after more than 20 years.
Liberia was the first African country to comply with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). As a founding member of the Liberia EITI, ArcelorMittal Liberia played an integral role in reporting its payments to Government, which was key to EITI’s compliance reports.
Further, the dispatch said AML has been contributing US $3.0 million annually for the counties in which it operates. To date, it said the company has paid $45 million towards this commitment. In response to citizens’ complaints that the funds were not benefiting the affected communities, AML said it convinced the Government of Liberia (GoL) that 20% of these funds should be managed directly by these communities. This program kicked off in 2020, it added.
Regarding its intervention capacity building, AML disclosed that it has spent $1.7 million to date on this scholarship program that has seen 29 candidates attend universities outside Liberia.
In 2017, the dispatch noted that AML reopened the Yekepa vocational and technical center (VTC) by spending US $7 million to refurbish this state-of-the-art training facility. It said enrollment to date is 159 students and the first batch of 45 recently graduated in 2021.
It cited protecting and promoting biodiversity as another important element of ArcelorMittal’s strategy for Liberia, detailing that some of the country’s most accessible iron ore deposits are found in the remote Nimba mountain range, which is also one of West Africa’s few remaining wet-zone forests and home to many rare species.
Conscious of minimizing disruption to these fragile ecosystems, ArcelorMittal said it convened a team of non – governmental organizations, international conservation groups, and governmental stakeholders including the Liberian Forestry Development Authority, Conservation International, Flora & Fauna International, and the Côte d’Ivoire-based Afrique Nature.
The resulting year-long ecological study highlighted both the fragility of this environment and also the potential for ArcelorMittal to not only mitigate further ecological damage to the region but indeed to start reversing this history of decline.
Explaining AML’s commitment to safety in the communities, the dispatch said as part of the railroad rehabilitation, an ongoing safety program has aimed to educate those communities that border the railway, many of which have not experienced rail traffic in 20 years.
This Road and Rail awareness campaign use street theatre to educate local communities on safety issues. The street theatre campaign, conducted both in English and local languages, has so far reached 23 of the larger local communities as well as local schools where puppet shows are used to raise awareness.
In 2010, the dispatch noted, safety activities were extended to support the Liberia National Police in running three workshops on road safety that brought together 300 taxi drivers, commercial motorcycle operators, transport union officials, and local authorities in Grand Bassa, Bong, and Nimba. The overall aim was to reduce the number of road accidents.
AML said it has made a US $40 million commitment to fund the paving of the Ganta Yekepa Highway. According to AML, the key section between Ganta and Sanniquellie is expected to be completed in mid-2022, adding that the people of Nimba have complained that LAMCO had not built this highway during its decades in Liberia.
AML has been one of the largest taxpayers in Liberia with payments to the Government exceeding $350 million to date.
When ArcelorMittal entered Liberia in 2005, the country had no electricity other than private generators. Together with the Ministry of the then Lands, Mines and Energy, World Bank, and ECOWAS, AML participated in helping with the execution of plans for the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) line connecting the country with Cote D’Ivoire for the provision of electricity.
This project depends on AML being a large offtaker of electricity and accordingly the line has been routed via Yekepa and Buchanan.
Once again, ArcelorMittal’s commitment to invest $800 million makes a strong statement in 2021. The company hopes to rekindle confidence for private investment in Liberia.
More than 2,000 jobs are expected to be created during the construction phase, with Liberians envisaged filling the majority of the roles created. With the increase in production volumes, the operations teams will also see a surge of about 1,000 new jobs.
The expansion project – which encompasses processing, rail, and port facilities – will be one of the largest mining projects in West Africa. It includes the construction of a new concentration plant and the substantial expansion of mining operations, with the first concentrate expected in late 2023, ramping up to 15 million tonnes per annum (‘mtpa’).
Under the agreement, the company will have reservations for expansion for at least up to 30mt. At these expanded levels, these iron ore exports will create a major boost to Liberia’s gross domestic product (GDP).
AML said it has undertaken a major renovation of the existing infrastructure and upgraded health facilities in its concession area and outside of its concession area at an estimated cost of over $18 million.
It said that as per the mineral development agreement (MDA) requirements, AML rehabilitated, equipped, and operates two hospitals in Yekepa and Buchanan. The dispatch said over 30,000 people received medical care from health facilities operated by AML.
Across Liberia, AML said it spent $5.52 million to help the Government to respond to EBOLA and COVID-19.
It stated that over $ 1.7 million has been spent on advanced foreign scholarships in line with AML’s Mineral Development Agreement.
The county social development fund (CSDF) that AML provides to Grand Bassa County ($1 million) has a scholarship component that currently provides scholarships to students of Grand Bassa County, the dispatch revealed.
It has cited the establishment of USD $ 7 million top-notch Vocational Training Center (VTC) and people from Grand Bassa County are among the highest enrolled students at VTC.
It also listed the rehabilitation and operationalization of schools in Yekepa with over $ 5 million spent to date and the launch of advanced international job training for Liberian staff.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/nimba-lawmakers-visit-arcelormittal-liberia/