EPA Deputy Executive Director, Mr. UriasGoll addresses the Mt. Gangra Consultations participants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed consultations with residents of towns and villages expected to be affected by Mt. Gangra project in Nimba County.
In his welcome remarks, Nimba County Development Engineer Mr. Joseph Torlon who proxied for Nimba County Superintendent, described Arcelor Mittal as a development partner in Liberia.
Mr. Torlon, said ninety percent of money used to develop Nimba County is provided by Arcelor Mittal through its social development fund of one point five million (1.5m USD) annually.
In a special statement to the project affected communities, the Deputy Executive Director of the EPA, Mr. UriasGoll, said the consultative forum is not about giving Arcelor Mittal permit to operate. He said the EPA has brought what the company had written for the project affected communities to see, discuss and understand, so that together a decision can be reached.
Mr. Goll noted that it is not all about economic development, but biodiversity sustainability as well. The EPA Deputy boss made it emphatically clear, that the Agency has come to listen to the decision of the affected communities and not to tell them what to say or do.
Mr. Goll encouraged the affected communities to voice their concerns and make recommendations where necessary to inform the EPA, urging them to ask questions for better understanding of the project.
For his part, Arcelor Mittal Chief Operation Officer,Mr. Kent McCurren, said the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia and the universal collapsed in the price of iron ore, created some financial problems for the company.
He disclosed that the company was gravitating from Mt. Torkadee to Mt. Gangrabecause; Mt. Gangra has Direct Shipping Ore(DSO) which could stabilize situation in the operation of the company.
Mr. McCurren noted that when the construction and use of the haul road is approved, the road will be used for four (4) months beginning March 2017 with all safety measures in place. The Nimba Legislative Caucus was represented at the consultation by Representative Larry yonquoi of District number eight(8) in Nimba County.
Representative Yonquoi told Arcelor Mittal to construct permanent roads with concrete bridges for its operation, and should it use the existing road, it will be at a cost to the company. Representative Yonquoi also stressed the need for a policy change, wherein Arcelor Mittal will directly give the twenty percent (20%) of the social development fund to affected communities, instead of the county’s administration.
According to him, “he will elevate the discussion with the Nimba Legislative Caucus, noting, we will not leave the people in the same condition we met them in.” Arcelor Mittal had conducted environmental studies, submitted to the EPA and subsequently requested the Agency to grant it environmental permit to operate Mt. Gangra and also construct a haul road. The haul road could adversely impact some towns and villages during and after the construction and use of said road, to include dust particles, vibration, biodiversity destruction, community dwellers safety during the hauling period among others.
The consultation forum was attended by the relevant line ministries and agencies, including Lands, Mines and Energy, Forestry Development Authority, civil society organizations, the county administration, the Nimba Legislative Caucus etc.