Editorial: While the world’s steel giant ArcelorMittal Limited, Principal of ArcelorMittal Liberia Limited is crying foul, accusing the Government of Liberia of breaching its (AML) rights under the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) of August 17, 2005, as subsequently amended on January 23, 2013, beneath the company’s tears are backlogs of defaulted obligations that are rendering its operations in the country to be found wanting.
For a company that has shipped iron ores out of Liberia for the past 16 years, to default on several critical terms of the Agreement, does not demonstrate honesty and reliability. It presents a totally different side of the concessionaire that the Government and People of Liberia least expect.
For instance, the government revealed recently thru written communications that AML has for a prolonged period, been in default of certain of its material obligations under the MDA, including failure to comply with its debt-equity ratio, failure to satisfy production schedule and failure to maintain the railroad, among others, which the government says constitute serious and prolonged breaches.
The company has not publicly responded to these charges coming from the government, but instead, accused the Government of Liberia of issuing licenses to third parties that violate its rights under the MDA.
ArcelorMittal Liberia seems to be taking Liberians for granted, as it exploits the country’s natural resources outside of transparency and accountability with very little regard for social responsibility but does not want government to do business with third parties. In essence, AML wants exclusive hold to Liberian iron ores.
Clearly, AML seems to be running away from competition. It wants to have exclusive operational rights to the rail from Nimba that passes thru Bong to Grand Bassa but has failed to rehabilitate the infrastructure under the MDA. Across the world, competition promotes healthy and viable business environment that brings benefits to inhabitants of the land that is being exploited.
However, in the case of AML, Liberians particularly the people of Nimba County are lamenting lack of social services and infrastructural development in the concession areas.
If the company cannot meet with terms of the Agreement, it should come out clearly to say so, rather than crying wolf. The Government of Liberia has unquestionable rights to bring into the country as many investors as it can handle. That should not be the worry of ArcelorMittal Limited.
The management would have to publicly explain how the issuance of licenses to third parties has obstructed its operations in Liberia. It is not doing so. Rather, it is running radio campaigns about its operations in the country.
No amount of media campaign can change or erase the realities on the ground. The best testimony of achievements by AML should come from both residents in the concession areas and the government.
ArcelorMittal Limited should know that being the first post-war concessionaire to come to Liberia does not sweep its investment obligations under the carpet, particularly as contained in the MDA that is being renegotiated with the government.