Senate to halt Western Cluster operations
By Ethel A. Tweh
The Liberian Senate says it is seeking legal direction from its lawyers to place a temporary stay order on the operations of Western Cluster in the country.
Speaking Thursday, 26 January 2023 in session, Senate President Pro-Tempore Albert Chie said the Senate will discuss and consult its lawyers regarding the move.
After consulting lawyers, he said the Senate will request a temporary stop order on the activities of the Western Cluster from the Minister of Mines and Energy.
According to him, the decision will be taken through the oversight responsibility of that august body.
He spoke following the individual presentations of Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Justice Minister Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, and the Minister of Mines and Energy, Gesler Murray.
The other includes the Chair of National Investment Concession Moleywuleh B. Gray.
The four witnesses were invited by the Senate to provide information about key issues surrounding the company.
The company has been operating at three iron ore deposits, including the Bomi Hills Mines, in Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu Counties.
Pro-Tempore Chie indicated that the order, when placed, will remain until all documents being requested by the body are produced.
Pro-Tempore Chie told the witnesses that they will be formally informed about the order through the office of the Senate Secretary, Nanborlor Singbeh.
Pro-Tempore Chie also demanded minutes of all of the meetings held between or among all parties involved to show how a decision was reached to waive US$14 Million to Western Cluster.
He said the Senate stands by its position that the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and the Ministry of Finance on behalf of the government, waived the US$14 Million while the two entities continue to claim that the decision was made in a win-win situation.
The Grand Kru County Senator added that the august body is eager to know the formula used by the LRA and Finance Ministry to also allocate the money to a county.
He stressed that as a matter of fact, the Liberian Senate does not consider the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the government and the company.
According to him, the body has since termed the document illegal, adding that the Senate is now seeking legal direction from its lawyers on how to proceed with the temporary stop order.
He said the issues surrounding Western Cluster Liberia Limited have gone 20% now.
Pro-Tempore Chie has also demanded an environmental impact assessment report from the Executive Branch of Government through the Inter-Mineral Technical Concession Committee.
According to him, the requested report is on the movement of iron ore and trucks and the feasibility studies that should have been done by Western Cluster.
“We want to know the plans for Western Cluster because we know they are mining the DSO and we know it is for three years,” he said.
“So after three years, what happens to the iron ore? Will they run away or will the MDA (Mineral Development Agreement) continue to work? We need concrete evidence to show,” Chie added.
He further noted that the Senate needs the report from the LRA that shows that Western Cluster owes the government US$24 Million from which US$14 Million was waived to the company.
The Western Cluster deal continues to suffer a series of setbacks due to the failure of the Government of Liberia and the legislative caucuses of the operational areas to involve their citizens in the renegotiation processes which led to the signing of a controversial Memorandum of Understanding for the resumption of the company’s operations.