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Digesting the AML’s amended agreement

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The Government of Liberia and the Management of ArcelorMittal Liberia recently signed an amended version of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) that commits one of the world’s largest steel giants to investing an additional US$800 million in Liberia. But even before the amended copy of the MDA was signed, citizens from the company’s operational areas in Nimba and Grand Bassa counties had protested against the agreement, including a lawsuit and physical harassment and intimidation by taking country devils on AML’s premises in Nimba to halt its operation.

But were all these anti-agreement actions justified really without reading and digesting the amendment made in the MDA? Or are Liberians saying they don’t trust their own government under the leadership of President George Manneh Weah to seek their interest in this concession?

The New Dawn has been leafing thru highlights of the amended Agreement and thinks ordinary citizens have lots to gain in terms of employment, county social development fund, scholarships, and vocational skills training, among others from the AML’s investment, just as the government itself stands to benefit revenue under a win-win deal.      

As the first major investor under the Weah administration, ArcelorMittal’s commitment to investing US$800 million makes a very strong statement that the company aspires to rekindle confidence for private sector investments in the economy with over 2000 new jobs expected to be created during the construction phase, and as production volumes surge, its operation teams will also yield additional 1,000 new employments, targeting Liberians. 

The expansion project, under the amended agreement, which encompasses processing, rail, and port facilities, promises to become one of the largest mining projects in the entire West Africa that would involve the construction of a new concentration plant and substantial expansion of mining operations with the first expected as early as 2023, ramping up to 15 million tonnes annually that could boost GDP.

The agreement that is being criticized in some quarters also stands to strengthen the Government of Liberia’s demand for other users including Guinean miners to utilize the Liberian infrastructure for their export.  AML has committed to concluding a MultiUser Agreement with GoL after the ratification of the amended Agreement.

With the global economy stifled by the COVID-19 pandemic, Liberians should exercise patience and be optimistic about the future rather than seeking to throw out the bathwater with the baby. We need direct foreign investments to grow our economy and companies that are already on the ground should not be scared away, was experienced with Sime Darby in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties.

ArcelorMittal has been engaged with the Government of Liberia on the need for an amendment since August 2016 with the former Sirleaf Administration, demonstrating its partnership with Liberia to keep operations afloat and offering win-win solutions such as utilizing the HFO plants it had procured in 2014 to supply badly needed electricity in the country.  Current negotiations with the Weah Administration began in earnest on September 17, 2020, and the company was engaged in 54 meetings with GoL, IMCC, and its international advisors over the 53 weeks it took to conclude by Sept. 10, 2021. Fifty of these meetings were on Infrastructure sharing as requested by the Government of Liberia.     

Liberia was the first African country to comply with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).  As a founding member of Liberia’s EITI, ArcelorMittal Liberia played an integral role in reporting its payments to Government, which was key to EITI’s compliance reports. Besides, AML has been contributing US $3.0 million annually to the counties in which it operates.  To date, the company has paid $45 million towards this commitment.   In response to citizens’ complaints that the funds were not benefiting the affected communities, AML convinced the Government of Liberia that 20% of these funds should be managed directly by these communities.  This program kicked off in 2020.

The AML Management has spent $1.7 million to date on a scholarship program that has seen 29 Liberians attend universities abroad, while it reopened the Yekepa Vocational Training Center in 2017 by spending US $7 million to refurbish this state-go-the-art training facility.  Enrollment to date is 159 students with the first batch of 45 recently graduated in 2021.

Liberians should be honest to themselves: what other company in the country has done so much just in 15 years, and is prepared to even do more? We believe strongly that the AML amended Mineral Development Agreement signed with the Government of Liberia provides enormous offers that Liberians should take advantage of.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/media-organizations-call-on-government-to-disclose-arcelormittals-revised-agreement/

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