Nimba County__ Nimba TV has reported that Poro Masters (country devils) from four (4) towns in Nimba County on Monday, September 27, 2021, halted the operations of ArcelorMittal Liberia from 1:00AM to 8:00PM.
The towns include Sehyikimpa, Makinto, Zolowee and Gbapa, all located in proximity of the company’s concessional areas.
The NIMBA TV’s report also has it that, the Poro masters’ action was triggered by the failure of the world’s leading steel company to adhere to conditions of the first Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) it signed with the government of Liberia in 2005.
The Poro masters said, their action was also intended to put the company’s feet on the fire to improve on its operations.
They are demanding to meet with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company.
Residents of towns affected by the company’s operations, have slammed AML for doing nothing to improve their living conditions.
The residents said sources of water in the area have been contaminated by the company’s operations thereby making it difficult for them to access safe drinking water.
They also pointed to the preferment of foreigners for employments over citizens of the affected areas.
In 2005, ArcelorMittal Liberia signed the first Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) to allow the company begin mining operations in Yekepa, Nimba County and Buchanan, Grand Bassa county concessions.
This agreement was then renegotiated and amended in 2006.
The MDA carries stringent conditions regarding sustainable development and economic, social and environmental investment.
Its aim is to ensure that, while foreign companies are able to generate a profit from their investment in the extraction of Liberia’s resources, the country and its citizens benefit as well.
Among other things, it stipulates that ArcelorMittal contributes US$3 million annually to the County Social Development Fund (CSDF) for Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa Counties.
This money, which over the 25-year expected life-of-mine will total $75 million, will be used to drive community development projects that will uplift and improve the lives of the locals.
The agreement includes commitments to infrastructural development, environmental protection and an overall guiding principle of uplifting Liberia and her people.
The company is required to establish and maintain medical and educational facilities in areas of operation, to serve employees, their families and the broader community and to prioritize the employment and development of Liberians.
The first Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) also supports socioeconomic regeneration and growth in local communities and throughout Liberia,
developing and strengthening an internal corporate responsibility governance and operational structure, building and strengthening partnerships with relevant industry stakeholders through proactive engagement.
Internalizing best practices on the environment, workplace, health, safety and good corporate governance among others.
On September 10, 2021, ArcelorMittal Liberia entered into another agreement with the Government of Liberia to allow the company to expand iron mining and logistics operations, while generating wider economic benefits for the country.
Following the signing of a 25-year deal with Liberia in 2005, ArcelorMittal shipped its first iron ore in 2011 from the Yekepa mine.
Although the company intended to expand the mine’s output to 15 million tons per annum (mtpa), the expansion plan was put on hold in 2014 as a result of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
With the latest agreement, ArcelorMittal will invest an additional US$800 million to boost iron ore production in the country from 5mtpa to 15mtpa within the next three years.
Expected to be one of the largest mining projects in West Africa, the expansion project will involve processing, rail and port facilities.
However, the expansion of the company’s mining operations has been greeted with public outcry with citizens of the county calling on the Government of Liberia to make sure the company complies with conditions of the first MDA.
Recently, Nimba County Women under the banner “Daughters of the Mountains”, petitioned the 54th National Legislature through the Nimba County Legislative Caucus, not to rectify an amendment to the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA), which paves the way for the expansion of the ArcelorMittal Liberia’s mining and logistics operations in the country.
The latest incidence is the first of its kind since ArcelorMittal began their operation in northern Liberia in 2005.